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Kent County Council Labour group reshuffle after leader loses seat

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A major reshuffle has taken place at Kent County Council's (KCC) Labour group after its leader was unseated in the local elections.

Gravesend and Northfleet Cllr Dr Lauren Sullivan says she is "very excited" to to lead the local party over the next four years at County Hall.

Cllr Lauren Sullivan sits on both Kent County Council and Gravesham council. Picture: Gravesham Borough Council
Cllr Lauren Sullivan sits on both Kent County Council and Gravesham council. Picture: Gravesham Borough Council

Kent Labour won seven seats in the county council elections last Friday, which was two more than the previous vote in 2017.

However, there was a shock defeat for KCC's former leader Dara Farrell, of Ashford South, who narrowly lost his seat to the Conservative group.

Cllr Sullivan, elected as the party's new leader at an annual meeting this week, said: "I am very excited to take on this new challenge. I think I am ready for this new role."

The shake-up comes alongside a major reshuffle of the national Labour party under Sir Keir Starmer after poor election results in England.

In Kent, Labour will likely become the main opposition party at KCC, remaining the traditional rival to the Conservatives, who won a total of 61 out of 78 seats.

However a deal could be struck between the Liberal Democrats and Greens, who together won 10 seats, to forge a potential coalition alliance.

KCC Labour will lay out key priorities in the coming weeks, which may include potholes, 20mph speed limits, youth services and recycling centre charges.

Cllr Sullivan added: "We want to build on a track record of looking at these issues and transmitting this information to the wider public."

Meanwhile, two Thanet elected members will occupy the other major posts within the County Hall Labour group.

Ramsgate county Cllr Karen Constantine has been appointed the party's deputy leader. Margate county Cllr Barry Lewis will remain chief whip.

After the election, Cllr Lewis, who won his seat by a margin of 84 votes, said: "I did not expect to win, but I have built a red wall in Margate."

Other newly-elected Labour members include Folkestone East Cllr Jackie Meade and Dartford North East Cllr Kelly Grehan, alongside Canterbury City councillors Alister Brady and Mel Dawkins.

Meanwhile, Labour have lost Cllr Farrell and Gravesham Borough Council leader John Burden following the public vote.

Concluding, Cllr Sullivan said: "I am sad to lose Dara and John, but we welcome the new expanded group."

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