Council leader-elect Samantha Dixon hopes to usher in an era of consensual working at Cheshire West and Chester Council after offering the hand of friendship to other political parties in her victory speech.
Labour leader Cllr Dixon, whose group secured an overall majority in Thursday’s elections, also stressed this approach to journalists afterwards, saying the next few years would be ‘tough’ with agreement vital to delivering regeneration schemes that will create jobs and growth.
She told the audience at the Northgate Arena: “Make no mistake, following the outcome of the week’s general election, the years ahead will be very difficult for local government. There will be no easy options, but we extend the hand of friendship to councillors – independent and Conservatives – to work together with us to ensure the best for our communities.
“The next four years will be tough.”
'Bickering is not constructive'
She later told reporters: “What I say to the electorate is that in many respects in local government there is a lot of consensus and there is agreement among the parties and I hope very much that there will continue to be agreement. I mean one aspect of that has been the very constructive work that we’ve done on the Northgate Development which has been a cross-party group and will continue on that basis.
“I know that regeneration projects that are going through the council need stability and for investment to come in to the borough, to the extent that we need it to, for the jobs for the people who live here. Bickering in a political sense is not constructive, it’s not helpful and puts off people coming to this area.
“So, to take a mature approach to working together as much as possible,” she added, explaining that she wanted to transform the culture of the authority away from ‘point-scoring’.
'Ray of hope'
Cllr Dixon said being in the Northgate Arena count had isolated her from what had happened politically elsewhere in the country. It was only on hearing the news while going home that she realised what Labour had achieved in West Cheshire was ‘quite significant’.
She found it ‘disappointing’ the authority would be operating under a Tory government, which may not make life easy for a Labour council, but added: “We’re a little ray of hope in the north west and the country hopefully.”
“I do think the challenges that will come from this Conservative government to this authority in particular may be difficult and I recognise we need for the authority to work together on a lot of things.”
But in her victory speech, Cllr Dixon made this promise to the people. “Thank you to the voters of Cheshire West for putting your cross and your trust in your Labour council. We will not disappoint you.”