In May 2019 Martin Stears-Handscomb became Leader of the Council, the first Labour
Leader for twenty years. The Group of 16 Labour and Co-operative councillors had
successfully negotiated a joint administration with the Council’s 11 Liberal Democrats.
We have demonstrated through the year that a Council that is both Labour-led and Liberal
Democrat-led can work effectively for the benefit of the community using the skills and
insights of councillors of all parties.
We have led by example, pegging the cost of allowances for Cabinet members
At the Annual Meeting we declared a Climate Emergency, set up a Cabinet Panel on the
Environment and have since made progress on reducing the Council’s carbon footprint
ensuring the Council uses renewable energy and “greening” the Council
We have introduced concessions for taxi drivers who use hybrid or electric cars and are
working towards a completely electric fleet.
The Council has joined the Co-operative Councils Innovation Network (CCIN),
declared itself a Co-operative Council, used funding from CCIN to develop our engagement
with Young People in the District and prioritised work on Enterprise and Co-operative
Under our leadership the Council has signed the Co-operative Party’s Charter against
Modern Slavery and taken forward work to identify and bring perpetrators to justice
We have worked with officers to change the culture of the Council and make it more open
and welcoming and expanded Community Engagement including expanding town talks and
Working with senior officers we have reviewed the way the Council is governed to make it
more member-led and more inclusive, taking steps to reduce unnecessary bureaucracy
The morale of staff and senior management has improved through giving strong leadership
and developing good working relationships.
The Council’s corporate plan has become our Council Plan incorporating the key manifesto
pledges we were elected on.
We reversed the previous administration’s policy of reducing waste and recycling
collections for flats, etc. and made progress in tackling the failings of the Waste Contract
We hosted a Review of the Council and our relationships with our partners, which was
positive but challenging and as a result we are working on an Action Plan to implement their
We have passed our first budget for the coming Civic Year starting the process of bringing
the Council’s resources more in line with our priorities but with a view to preparing for likely
future Tory cuts.
For this reason too, we have reduced our officer force at the top, replacing two officers
(CEO and Deputy) with one Managing Director.
As the Covid-19 Pandemic led to the lockdown, we have worked with the leaders of the
County Council and other Districts and Boroughs to give effective leadership and play our
part in protecting the NHS and our residents, following government advice. Filling in the
gaps when the advice was late or misleading and lobbying for government promises to pay
us back when we have spent “whatever it takes” as they asked us to do
We have led the way in getting support to our local businesses and sought additional
flexibility so that those left out can be supported too.
And we continue to engage with the community to ensure that we are supporting the most
We have worked to ensure that our community engagement continues. And we have
worked with our excellent IT and Committee Services staff to ensure that our democracy
continues through video conferencing and public streaming of meetings
Going forward we are determined to ensure that we give maximum support to residents
and businesses as we move into the recovery phase, using the opportunity to encourage
green and co-operative enterprises in the knowledge that in such times small and medium
sized enterprises (SMEs) are the engines of recovery and that an approach that includes
everyone such as inclusive community wealth building will ensure that the recovery
included all sectors of our community
People are waking up to how much this government is letting the country down and that a
Labour Government under Kier Starmer cannot come soon enough.
It is Labour in power in local government demonstrating Labour and Co-operative values
that will build up people’s confidence and build the base for future electoral success