The woman who is set to take control of Cheshire West and Chester Council has vowed to ‘put respect at the core’ of the local authority.
As Labour narrowly took control of CWaC by just one seat, council leader-elect Cllr Samantha Dixon made a dig at outgoing Tory council leader Mike Jones who controversially removed the need to show respect from the councillors’ code of conduct.
She said: “The Labour Party is founded on the belief that by the strength of our common endeavours we achieve more than we achieve alone, to create a community where we live together freely in a spirit of solidarity, tolerance and respect.
“Above all we believe in respect. This Labour administration will put respect back at the core of the council - respect for our residents, respect for each other and respect for our staff.”
Cllr Dixon paid tribute to former leaders of the Labour group including the late councillors Derek Bateman and David Robinson as well as her immediate predecessor Justin Madders who has been elected as the new Labour MP for Ellesmere Port and Neston.
“They are giants and we salute them,” added Cllr Dixon, who said the late Cllr Bateman built the Labour group from 13 to 32 in the 2011 election and Cllr Robinson’s legacy was to devise a ‘superb’ electoral strategy.
She rejected the notion that the Tories had lost control of CWaC because they had done something wrong and instead said it’s more about what Labour have done right in their ‘positive’ campaign and how they have worked ‘really, really hard’.
Ray of hope
Acknowledging that the Cheshire West and Chester Labour group have managed to buck the national trend, she said: “We are a little ray of hope in the North West.”
Looking ahead to what she’d like to achieve in the next four years, Cllr Dixon said she wants to see a different approach to health and social care.
Cheshire West and Chester Council’s first ever female leader paid special tribute to the ‘long line of strong women’ she comes from.
Cllr Dixon said she felt ‘very proud’ to be one of Chester’s most influential women and emphasised the importance of female role models in society.
“I come from a long line of very strong women - my mother was also a councillor and is an amazing woman who has had a powerful influence on me,” said the council leader elect whose deputy is likely to be Cllr Louise Gittins.
“I believe women and men are different but it’s important to have women as role models because they bring a different culture to organisations and places.”
Cllr Dixon, a mum of three daughters, also paid tribute to her husband Nick, a former Chester city councillor, who she described as being ‘my rock’ throughout her campaign.
“Nick is fantastic- he does the ironing, the cooking and the shopping, he really is my rock,” she said.
“We are very much a Labour family. I met my husband on a doorstep when we were both campaigning for Christine Russell in 1997.
“My mum was a Labour councillor, Nick’s parents and brother have been involved in politics and my daughters are heading that way too.”
She also explained that newly-elected councillor Richard Beacham, who topped the poll in the crucial final ward of Newton, injected political tactics into the Labour approach learned from the Obama presidential campaign.
Cllr Dixon said: “It was a very precise approach and we had fantastic organisers too. One was a parliamentary organiser and one for the borough as well, who was elected as a councillor today, which was Richard Beacham.
“I’ve got to pay tribute to him. He is hardworking and he has so many skills that you can use in the political arena. He came to us in November 2012, straight from the Obama campaign. He’s local. He understood about the kind of campaign they were doing there.”
Tory leader future
Council leader Mike Jones said he would ‘give some consideration’ to his own future as leader of the Tory group but it ultimately it came down to the decision of his members.
Asked if he shouldered any responsibility for the embarrassing defeat, he responded: “We all have our responsibilities and what we have to do when we reflect as a party, we will look at how we could have done things differently and how things can be improved because it’s a team effort.”
He explained his concerns about Labour having such a slim majority and its implications for investment and the regeneration projects that are under way across the borough:
“The private sector requires confidence and we have created a great deal of confidence. With a majority of one that makes the council a lot more unstable than it has been in the past. The private sector do not like uncertainty.”
When asked the million dollar question of whether he’ll stay on as party leader, he said he ‘needs a bit of time to think’.