Annual Council - Darlington Borough Council
It was Annual Council on Thursday, when traditionally the new Mayor is sworn in, and the various positions on the Council, including Leader and Deputy Leader, agreed.
Ian Haszeldine was the outgoing Mayor - in his year, a stupendous amount of money has been raised for charity (from memory over £50,000). Ian paid tribute to the work of the volunteers in the Mayor's Charity Shop, and pointed out that they had raised this sum despite the difficult period when conversations were taking place over the future of the premises. We're all glad that these were successfully resolved.
John and Bill were re-elected Leader and Deputy Leader - for the 19th time. Cabinet too was approved, although subsequently, some changes have been made to the holders of various portfolios - after a very successful tenure, Chris McEwan moves from Children's Services to Resources and Efficiency - his place is taken by Jenny Chapman. Steve Harker becomes the new Cabinet Member for Health and Leisure, whilst Jenny's role in Communities and Engagement has been taken on by Andy Scott. All other portfolios (including mine at Sustainable Environment and Climate Change) remain unchanged.
The incoming Mayor is Tory Jim Ruck. As Bill Dixon pointed out (as someone does nearly every year) Darlington has a unique approach to selecting Mayors, based solely on seniority, which means that you can have a Tory as Mayor under a Labour administration, and vice versa. The feeling of the greater majority of Council members (and indeed the public in last year's referendum) is that our historic system has much to recommend it.
Jim is a universally popular figure on the Council. His easy bonhomie masks a principled politician who has added a huge amount to debates on transport and the environment. He is a consensual figure, but nonetheless one who is prepared to speak his mind, even if that doesn't necessarily accord with his Party's position. I can't help feeling that politics needs a lot more Jim Rucks just at the moment.
I've included a brief snatch of film from Annual Council as outgoing Mayor came into the Chamber. After Jim had been proposed and seconded, a vote was formally taken, and Ian declared that he was unanimously elected. Actually, I'm sad to say that I'm not sure that is the case, as one sour-faced Tory seemed to sit on their hands throughout the proceedings. And who is that, you ask? - ah, my lips are firmly sealed!