New chairman voted in at Mid Suffolk District Council annual meeting
The Conservative and Independent group has secured a new chairman for Mid Suffolk District Council for the year ahead, effectively holding on to power at the politically deadlocked authority.
Paul Ekpenyong, Conservative councillor for St Peter’s ward, has served as deputy chairman for the past year.
At last night’s annual meeting, held at Wherstead Park to enable social distancing, he was voted in as chairman thanks to the casting vote of the outgoing chairman, Barry Humphreys.
The council chairman represents the authority at community events and engagements, as well as chairing full council meetings.
However, as Mid Suffolk is a politically split authority – with 17 councillors on each side of the chamber – the chairman’s casting vote becomes crucial for decision-making.
Mr Humphreys will serve as vice-chairman this year, also secured by a casting vote of the new chairman.
Conservative councillor Dave Muller, who proposed Mr Ekpenyong for the role, said he was 'very impressed with how he has dealt with issues' and praised his time as Stowmarket town mayor, which he said was served 'with distinction'.
Cllr Jessica Fleming, seconding, said he had 'always been fair, sensitive, he sees the small picture and the big picture and he will be a wonderful chair'.
The council currently has 16 Conservatives and one Independent united as part of the administration, while the 12 Greens and five Liberal Democrats have come together to form an opposition group.
The Green and Lib Dem alliance put forward Roland Warboys as their preferred chairman, but outgoing chairman Mr Humphreys used his casting vote in favour of Mr Ekpenyong.
Rachel Eburne, leader of the Green and Lib Dem group, said: “The role of chair is a very important role and one who has to show complete and utter fairness to everybody in the council chamber, regardless of political party.”
She said Mr Warboys had demonstrated his commitment to Mid Suffolk and valued the opinions of everybody in the chamber.
Mr Ekpenyong confirmed his chosen charity for fund-raising activity through the year would be East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices Each) – a cause close to his heart after his son was diagnosed with leukaemia.
Cllr Ekpenyong said: “I am truly honoured to be elected as chairman for Mid Suffolk District Council for the coming year and thank my fellow councillors and family for their support.
“I have chosen Each as my charity this year to help raise awareness of the amazing work it does. As a family we have experienced first-hand the difference the charity makes and it is a privilege to have the opportunity to show my support in this way.
“The level of care and support offered to families during very difficult situations is invaluable – offering flexibility and control over where they receive the care and support they need.
“I would also like to take this opportunity to thank and recognise the commitment of our outgoing chairman Cllr Barry Humphreys MBE. His service to this council has be exemplary and I know that he has carried out his duties with fairness and civility.”
Cllr Ekpenyong was first elected to Mid Suffolk District Council in 2015. He has since served on the licensing and regulatory committee, Suffolk Joint Standards Board and the council’s overview and scrutiny committee.