North Kesteven District Council has elected its new leader.
After being chosen as Group Leader by Conservative party colleagues last week, the authority held an extraordinary meeting yesterday evening (Thursday) when members voted Coun Richard Wright into the post of Leader of the Council, unopposed.
He fills the vacancy left by Coun Marion Brighton who stepped down earlier this month due to ill health.
Coun Wright will now select a Deputy Leader and Executive Board to support him in carrying forward the council’s vision and priorities for service delivery and community enhancements, but he insisted in the short term there will be very little change as plans were already in place.
He said in accepting the role: “It’s not so much a new broom, but a passing on of the baton. What I want is to continue on the path North Kesteven has already started.”
The new Leader is part of what is known as the ‘strong leader’ model of local government adopted by the council. He plans to talk with fellow members of the Conservative group and also welcomed other members to come and chat to him in coming weeks about their visions for the way forward and would then announce his new executive board at the annual meeting of the council in May.
He said: “I have to take on board people’s viewpoints. We have some challenges ahead as a council and I want to make sure my team are there to meet that challenge.”
Coun Wright has represented his home ward of Ruskington since May 2007 and served on the council’s Executive Board over the past six years, with special responsibility for enforcement, waste management, licencing, sustainability and related matters.
He has also served on the Central Lincolnshire Joint Strategic Planning Committee, mapping out the local development framework for North Kesteven, Lincoln and West Lindsey through to 2036.
He has played a role in the development of the council’s NK Plan - its vision for the future financially, its structure and priorities.
Aged 50, he has extensive experience working in public service for the RAF, Ministry of Defence, Probation Service and currently works part time for the privatised wing of the Probation Service - the Humberside, Lincolnshire and North Yorkshire Community Rehabilitation Company.
Alongside his new role of Leader of the Council, he said his flexible style will have no problem managing both, saying: “I will make sure I will not neglect either side.”
He promised to manage his time so as to not neglect the residents in his Ruskington ward either, along with fellow ward councillor Terry Boston.
Having worked alongside Coun Brighton and the executive board and management team for a number of years he is already well versed in “what the council is about”, paying tribute to Coun Brighton’s commitment, something he felt he could never hope to emulate, but would do his best as the council had become “his life” too.
He insisted: “I am not using this as a stepping stone to anything. My ambition is to do the best for this council. I have made it clear that North Kesteven is where I enjoy what I do and feel a real connection and I have not felt the need to look elsewhere.”
Married to Jayne and living in Ruskington since 1995, he invests significant time and energy in support of his local community as chairman, treasurer and child welfare officer for Ruskington Lions Junior FC and served on Ruskington Parish Council from 1997-2004 prior to joining NKDC.
Coun Wright said: “I am extremely proud and honoured to have been elected as Leader of the Council and to have the support of my colleagues to continue and strengthen the delivery of our community-focused priorities over the coming years in support of our residents and local businesses.
“There is so much positivity and drive within our district and as a council, we will grasp every opportunity to continue building on that.
“I look forward to the challenges ahead and in rolling out the council’s established, publically-endorsed and unanimously-approved NK Plan setting out our immediate strategic actions.
“I take on the leadership of a council in robust financial health, with a sustainable and bright future and a strong legacy of delivering positive difference as a dynamic, visionary and progressive authority, focused on excellent, efficient and effective services.”
With proposals about a unitary authority system for Lincolnshire being proposed by the Leader of the County Council, Coun Wright said people are losing sight of what is best for residents. Only when his council is satisfied it has the right structure and is fit for purpose for the future would they begin talking with other councils about the future of local government in Lincolnshire as a whole.
He said: “It is the time to see if there is a need for change but it needs to be for the right reasons and because it is wanted.”