Cllr Suzie Morley has been elected the Leader of Mid Suffolk District Council, with Cllrs Lavinia Hadingham and Barry Humphreys MBE serving as Chair and Vice-Chair, at the council’s Annual Council Meeting.
Mid Suffolk’s Annual Council Meeting on Monday (20 May) evening saw Cllr Suzie Morley (Conservative) elected as Leader. This was the first meeting of the council following the Local Elections earlier this month.
Cllr Suzie Morley, newly elected Leader of Mid Suffolk District Council, said: “It is a great and humbling honour to be elected Leader of Mid Suffolk District Council. I do so at a time of significant change, but also following a time of great progress, and achievement, that we - members and officers - can be proud of.
“In the coming weeks and months, our administration will set out its priorities for the next four years. We welcome a lively debate on this, and, as in the previous 4 years, we will be open, transparent and inclusive.”
As new Leader, Cllr Morley named Cllr Gerard Brewster as the Deputy Leader of the Council.
The meeting was opened by Mr Derrick Haley, who was elected Chairman last year. Although Mr Haley did not stand in the recent elections and is no longer a councillor, as the previous Chairman he was invited to open the meeting and chair the first agenda item, which saw Cllr Lavinia Hadingham elected as his successor as Chair of the Council. The meeting also saw Cllr Barry Humphreys MBE elected to serve as Vice-Chair. Cllr Hadingham named Mid Suffolk Home-Start, a charity that recruits and trains volunteers who have parenting experience themselves and offer families informal, friendly and confidential support as their Chair’s Charity for 2019/20.
Full Text of Cllr Morley's speech to Council:
It is a great and humbling honour to be elected Leader of Mid Suffolk District Council.
I do so at a time of significant change, but also following a time of great progress, and achievement, that we – members and officers – can be proud of.
In the last four years, this Conservative Administration has worked hard to make Mid Suffolk a better place for everyone. We’ve invested millions in our community facilities, built more affordable homes, started building council homes again – the first in a generation – and kept our streets clean, tidy and safe.
We have brought empty properties back into use, tackled homelessness and funded community groups who do some truly amazing work.
We have regenerated key areas in our district, so that we can all be proud to call Mid Suffolk our home. I welcome Mid Suffolk being voted one of the top places to live in the UK.
We accept there is much more to do but this cannot possibly be done without a strong thriving private sector. This is where the money comes from and we will do what we can to encourage business growth in a sustainable manner for the benefit of everyone.
The elections earlier this month were, clearly, very difficult for us.
I believe our record is strong, but it was not strong enough to withstand the national swing that saw so many Conservative councillors, good councillors that worked hard for their communities, lose their seats. I would like to put on record my thanks for their achievements.
Nevertheless, we have to deal with the consequences. We have to find a way that we feel, in our hearts, that we can best serve the people of Mid Suffolk.
Since the elections, I have met the leaders of the other groups on several occasions, and I am grateful to them for entering into these talks, which have been productive, helpful, and focused on how we might be able to work together.
I am confident that Cllr Eburne, Cllr Field and I, can, and will, have a productive working relationship, respecting each other’s views whilst not necessarily agreeing with each other. I believe that leadership is a behaviour, not a role, and I truly believe that our skills and our passion to do the right thing, are up to this challenge.
There are many things we agree on, not least how important it is that we make Mid Suffolk a better place to live, work and visit. There are, however, some significant issues where we do not agree.
Our discussions have focused on those areas of disagreement, in particular the future role of CIFCO and the location of our headquarters.
For our Group, the financial case for continuing with our approach is rock solid.
Through sound investment decisions made by highly experienced experts in this field, we spread the risk by investing in different market sectors and in different locations. Through this we are generating much needed, regular income, to help fund vital public services. £670,000 in the first year alone. That’s equivalent to 11% on the council tax. This is money we would otherwise not have access to, with services likely to suffer as a result.
Through the move to Endeavour House, THIS public sector hub, we, alongside Babergh, expect to save almost £6 million in property costs over the next decade. This, again, is money that we can then reinvest in the services our residents value the most. In doing so, we’re now in the process of transforming our old offices in Needham Market into much-needed local housing and retail space. The ComRes survey carried out last summer showed that the most important things to our residents was keeping council tax low whilst continuing to deliver local services – it was NOT moving staff that residents don’t need to interact with, back to Needham Market. For staff that our residents DO need to interact with they are out and about in our District and, if required, we have our office in Stowmarket.
It’s clear from the election literature that the opposition wish to undo this work. Their political asks are not acceptable to us, and, sadly, we have not been able to find consensus.
We believe that what they are proposing would be damaging to this council’s financial future, putting increased pressure on services. We believe that what they are proposing would waste valuable taxpayers money.
We therefore cannot, in all good conscience, form an administration with the Greens and Liberal Democrats.
Our group has therefore joined with Cllr Brewster to form an administration. Together, we will lead this council through any national, and local, uncertainty that lies ahead.
I recognise that it will be difficult, but sometimes that is just the way it is – let’s get on with it.
I do however extend the hand of cooperation, as has been the way in Mid Suffolk for many years. The offer of a seat in our Cabinet remains open, should Cllr Eburne and Cllr Field wish to take it.
I envisage an exciting programme of collaboration and co-operation where we will share resources across the public sector.
In the coming weeks and months, our administration will set out its priorities for the next four years. We welcome a lively debate on this, and, as in the previous 4 years, we will be open, transparent and inclusive.
Today however, I wish to make two of my personal priorities crystal clear.
The first is the people we are here to serve.
When I became Cabinet Member for Organisational Delivery, with responsibility for customer services, I learnt very quickly how important it was to put our residents and service users at the heart of everything we do.
I also learnt how much we already do, delivered by dedicated and hardworking staff every single day. I wish to pay tribute to them and hope you will join me in expressing our gratitude to them. I would also like to thank ALL of our Ward Councillors who work tirelessly for their Towns and Parishes.
I’ve been a customer myself, frustrated at how difficult it is to find the information I need. I find it a constant source of exasperation that the best way to find information on our website is to use an external search engine.
Just because we are often the only organisation that offers a particular service, it doesn’t mean we can act as if that is the case. We must treat every interaction with our residents and service users as if they COULD choose a different service provider. We must treat them as customers. It’s a way of thinking, and working, that I want to see expanded in this council.
As leader, I will make this a fundamental pillar of our work in Mid Suffolk. Whether that’s involving people in decision-making, improving access to services or designing services around their needs and our communication with the public needs to be far better and proactive. We are here to improve their lives and to do that, we need to start with, and remain focused on them.
I am also making a priority of agreeing our Joint Local Plan.
This is arguably one of the most important pieces of work that we have before us. It is THE most important.
It is vital that we ensure that housing and building development in our district is where, and how, we want it to be. It’s is important to our residents that we get it right.
Our administration will therefore ensure that the council continues to work at pace, bringing proposals for public consultation forward to members this summer.
I am still tweaking my Cabinet appointments and will be handing these to the Monitoring Officer tomorrow. I am however very happy to announce now, that my Deputy Leader will be Councillor Gerard Brewster. I cannot think of a safer pair of hands to back me up during these difficult times.
My message to members, staff and residents is a very simple one.
Mid Suffolk District Council is focused on its residents and service users.
They are at the heart of what we do, how we do it and why we are here.
We must always remember this fact, and make sure their needs are visible in the decisions we make and actions we take. We will put them first.