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Bury St Edmunds’ Eastgate ward councillor Cliff Waterman elected as new West Suffolk Council leader





A new West Suffolk Council leader has tonight been elected.

Councillor Cliff Waterman was elected as leader with 37 votes, while Nick Clarke, leader of the West Suffolk Conservatives, received 25 votes.

The district council will now be made up of a partnership between the West Suffolk Progressive Alliance Grouping – which consists of Labour, Liberal-Democrat and Green members – and the Independents, under the title of the West Suffolk Working Partnership (WSWP).

Cllr Cliff Waterman has been elected as the new West Suffolk Council leader. Photo: Siobhan Middleton
Cllr Cliff Waterman has been elected as the new West Suffolk Council leader. Photo: Siobhan Middleton

Cllr Waterman appointed Cllr Victor Lukaniuk, leader of the newly formed Independents, as his deputy leader.

Cllr Waterman, Labour Group Leader, said: “Thank you very much council for putting your trust in me as leader. I promise I will be the leader of the whole council and I promise I will not indulge in petty politics from the council chamber.

“I am delighted to have been elected to lead this council and deliver the priorities of all councillors who have come together as the West Suffolk Working Partnership.

Cllr Diane Hind has been appointed as cabinet portfolio holder for resources. Photo: Siobhan Middleton
Cllr Diane Hind has been appointed as cabinet portfolio holder for resources. Photo: Siobhan Middleton

“We recognise all communities and businesses across West Suffolk are currently facing enormous challenges and we are focused on working together to tackle these.

“We also have enormous assets in the shape of our people, businesses and heritage, and we will be working with partner organisations to make the most of them.

“In the coming days I will be outlining our priorities and I look forward to working with my colleagues in the WSWP and everyone in West Suffolk to help make West Suffolk the very best place in which to live, work or visit.”

He made the following appointments for cabinet portfolio holders:

Cllr Donna Higgins – Families and Communities

Cllr Indy Wijenayaka – Growth

Cllr Richard O'Driscoll – Housing

Cllr Ian Shipp – Leisure, Culture and Community Hubs

Cllr David Taylor – Operations

Cllr Jim Thorndyke – Planning

Cllr Gerald Kelly – Governance and Regulatory

Cllr Diane Hind – Resources and Performance

Before the leader was elected, it was decided that council procedure rules would be suspended to allow for a recorded vote as proposed by Cllr Nick Clarke.

Cllr Nick Clarke proposed to suspend council procedure rules to allow for a recorded vote. Picture: Mark Westley
Cllr Nick Clarke proposed to suspend council procedure rules to allow for a recorded vote. Picture: Mark Westley

He wanted there to be transparency for residents and called for Independent councillors to abstain from voting for a leader.

He said: “We find ourselves in a very complex place at the moment on a council with the Conservatives as the largest group, but without sufficient votes for overall control.

“We have Labour putting someone up for leader of the council despite having less votes than the Conservatives or the Independents. And we have the Independents forming a political group.

“The Independents are clearly the kingmakers – they can choose to remain truly independent, as voters believe they are and abstain from the leader vote, or alternatively they can vote for Labour or the Conservatives. This is a matter of respect for the electorate. It would be strange for an Independent councillor to turn a vote into a vote for Labour.

“What is the motivation behind propping up a minority Labour administration? Do the Independents and Labour political strategies align – I’m not sure they do.”

Cllr Roger Dicker was elected Chairman of West Suffolk Council and Cllr Pat Hanlon as Vice Chairman.