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New Suffolk County Council leader pledges to introduce 'new style of working'

Cllr Matthew Hicks, leader of Suffolk County Council (2211998)
Cllr Matthew Hicks, leader of Suffolk County Council (2211998)

The newly-elected leader of Suffolk County Council has pledged to introduce a 'new style of working' by co-operating and collaborating across Suffolk.

In a speech following his election today, Cllr Matthew Hicks pledged to work with district and borough councils, other public sector partners, businesses and residents to find the best ways of delivering services.

He has also appointed several West Suffolk figures to his cabinet with Cllr Mary Evans, who represents Clare, made deputy leader and cabinet member for highways, transport and rural affairs.

Cllr Beccy Hopfensperger, who represents Thingoe North, has retained responsibility for adult care and Cllr Richard Rout, who represents Hardwick, has been made cabinet member for environment and public protection.

Cllr Hicks, who replaces Cllr Colin Noble as leader, said: "There is one common theme I wish to adopt across all aspects of our work and that is my pledge to adopt a new style of working – whether it be in this chamber, in this building or throughout our county.

"My administration is committed to working collaboratively across Suffolk, with the district and borough councils, with the leaders of the health sector, and with businesses.

"While we will work collaboratively with the opposition, we will not compromise on our beliefs.

"In the shadow of Northamptonshire County Council, no Conservative leader is going to relax tight budgetary controls and risk the future of the council, or risk the wellbeing of residents.

"I understand that no public sector organisation can afford to stand aloof and alone. This is no time for a bunker mentality. We must co-operate and collaborate to achieve the best for our residents.

"I look forward to playing an active part in the Suffolk Public Sector Leaders Group starting with my first meeting tomorrow morning. We must all be willing to share ideas and resources across the public sector - something that was achieved in the devolution debate and this is an approach that I believe achieves and brings the greatest success."

Ending his speech, he said: "This is a new era. I spoke earlier about how I would like to see us work more collaboratively in this chamber. We were all elected and have an equal right to be in the chamber.

"This is of course a debating chamber. We line up against one another. The administration here, the opposition there. We all expect there to be rough and tumble in debate - but what I expect is mutual respect. Respect for the individual. Attack the policy, attack the proposals, not the individual."

A priority for Cllr Hicks’ administration is Suffolk’s roads, which includes investing an additional £21 million so that 1,000 miles of Suffolk’s 4,000-mile road network can be resurfaced by 2021.

Cllr Evans said: “No matter who you are or what you do, if you live, visit or work in Suffolk you will at some point need to use our roads. It’s one of the truly universal services the county council provides.

“For that very reason it’s essential that we make sure they are maintained to as good a standard as possible. I know there is not enough money to do everything we want to do as quickly as we wish.

"But that means we must challenge ourselves even harder to find new and innovative ways of working and sources of funding. This is my focus because I want our roads to be fit for a thriving county like Suffolk.”

Labour leader Cllr Sarah Adams said: "Whilst we welcome the new spirit of co-operation the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

"We abhor the personal attacks we have suffered under the old regime and we hope they have stopped. We are happy to debate and discuss policy as we think we have much to offer. I am sure Cllr Hicks is a man of his word.

"There are many challenges facing Suffolk over the next 10 years. We have an ageing population with increased care needs to be serviced both at home and in specialist provision. The rise in the number of dementia cases needs our urgent attention.

"The number of constituents contacting me regarding SEN provision is growing daily. All of these need a resolution.

"We need to ensure that we provide the right skills for our communities to ensure high skilled workers are trained here and employed here in Suffolk.

"We need Suffolk training for Suffolk workers. We need a council that is willing to listen, and we are looking forward to working with the new leader for the betterment of all the people of Suffolk."

Andrew Stringer, leader of the Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent Group, said: “Matthew has a chance to do something remarkably different here: if he chooses to be collaborative, we will support him; if he chooses to be open and transparent, we will help him. But we will always hold this administration to account if we feel they are not acting in the best interest of Suffolk’s residents.

"The Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent Group operates in an entirely different way. We are open, inclusive, respectful and inventive. That is exactly the kind of politics we need in the Chamber at Suffolk County Council, and I sincerely hope that is the kind of politics we will see in Matthew’s new era."

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