'Be courteous' says new council leader after toxic Town Hall claims

Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council's leader urged all councillors to 'be courteous' amid claims about toxicity at the Town Hall. Last night, May 15, councillor Chris Watkins was voted in as the new leader of the council.

It was contested by the Conservatives, who nominated former leader, Cllr Kris Wilson, to be leader. This was lost on a vote and Cllr Watkins was voted in as council leader.

In his first speech, he thanked the council's election staff for all of their hard work, and then welcomed in all of the new councillors. But in doing so, he urged them to 'be courteous' in the chamber.

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There had been claims that the council chamber atmosphere had become 'toxic' prior to the local elections. When Labour swooped to power, Cllr Watkins said that one of his first priorities was to address this.

At the time, he said: "To be honest, I was expecting to get the council back because of the toxicity at the Town Hall. It is not something that residents want to see and it is not something that will be continued under Labour."

He echoed this sentiment at the annual meeting of the council last night and said: "I would like to welcome all of the new members that we have here in the chamber today and I hope that this year we can work courteously and have a good atmosphere in this chamber."

New Mayor, councillor Bill Hancox, in his acceptance speech, also urged councillors to 'treat each other with respect'. "We will not always agree, that's the nature of politics, but we should remember that we have all been elected to do the best for all of the borough residents.

"They put their trust in us. Let's not let them down."

As well as urging courtesy in the chamber, council leader, Cllr Watkins also paid tribute to Brent Davis, the council's chief executive, who is retiring at the end of this month, having worked at the local authority for more than two decades.

New cabinet unveiled

There are lots of new faces in the chamber following the local elections, many of them Labour councillors after the group increased its number of seats from five to 20. Having taken control from the Conservatives, who now have 16 councillors, the council leader revealed his new cabinet and a shake-up in the cabinet positions, with housing now becoming a standalone portfolio and finance becoming part of the new resources and customer services position.

As well as being leader, Cllr Watkins will be in charge of the housing portfolio. Cllr Jill Sheppard was made Deputy Leader and she will be cabinet member for the environment and public services.

Cllr Steve Hey is the new resources and customer services cabinet member while Cllr Tim Jenkins will be the portfolio holder for leisure, communities and health. The new business and regeneration cabinet member is Cllr Nicola King.

Cllr Rob Roze is the new planning and enforcement portfolio holder. The first meeting of the new-look cabinet is being held in the council chamber on Wednesday, May 22.

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