New leader and deputy leader at East Riding Conservative Group following AGM
The outgoing leader of East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s ruling Conservative group has said it was “an honour” to lead after being ousted yesterday (Wednesday, April 28).
Cllr Richard Burton said he was proud of his achievements as the leader of East Riding Council and his record on the coronavirus pandemic.
The outgoing leader, who spent two years in the post after succeeding former council leader Steve Parnaby, added that “the group has spoken” and wished incoming group head Cllr Jonathan Owen all the best.
Incoming deputy leader Cllr John Holtby said both he and Cllr Owen were happy to have won and would now focus on “bring us back together”.
The comments follow the ruling Conservative group’s AGM, which saw Cllr Burton and his deputy Cllr Mike Stathers ousted at the yearly party meeting.
Cllr Owen and Cllr Holtby are understood to have assumed leadership of the group after results were announced, according to sources within the group.
It is believed Cllr Burton and Cllr Stathers will stay on as caretaker leader and deputy leader of the council itself, before handing over power formally to Cllr Owen and Cllr Holtby at an AGM on Thursday, May 13.
Cllr Burton said: “It’s been an honour and a privilege to lead the group and the council for the last two years since taking over from Steve Parnaby.
“We’ve achieved a lot during that time and despite the challenges we’ve faced the council has become more digital, commercial and has adopted new ways of working.
“We’ve also had the coronavirus pandemic which has been immensely challenging, we’ve had to adapt and make changes as a result.
“But we’ve had the AGM and the group has spoken, and I wish Cllr Owen the best going forward.
“I was elected by the residents of Bridlington Central and Old Town to represent them at council and I will endeavour to carry on doing so.
“I’m sure I will be chatting to the new leadership soon.”
Incoming deputy leader Cllr Holtby said: “Both Cllr Owen and I are happy to have been chosen for the positions.
“I wanted to put my name forward for deputy leader because I wanted to see a few changes to the way things are going.
“I’ve been a ward councillor for nine years now so I thought it was time to have a go at a position at the next level and I’m now hoping I can help bring us back together.
“There are issues facing the East Riding going forward, there’s questions over how devolution will be handled and it’s important we get that right because we want to access the government funding it will bring.
“I’m also interested in looking at moving climate change targets to be carbon neutral by 2050 forward.
“It would be disappointing if some councillors break away, we’re all democrats and we should respect the result, if the outgoing leadership doesn’t like it then they can come back and have another go in a year’s time.
“The assumption with bringing an adjudicator in would be that the vote wasn’t done correctly.
“But it was, everyone got a vote and if it had been me I would have accepted the group’s decision and walked away.”
Outgoing group and council deputy leader Mike Stathers said: “The result came as quite a shock.
“There has been an outpouring of support for Cllr Burton and myself over the last couple of hours.
“We’ve known that for the last 18 months a small faction within the group has been working against the leadership, but the result was still a surprise to us.
“I’m looking forward to getting back to being an effective ward councillor for Wolds Weighton, that was always my aim from when I was first elected.
“Richard and I both have our lives and we’re looking forward to getting back to them, there are more important things in life than fighting over positions.”
Cllr David Nolan, leader of the opposition Liberal Democrat group on the council, said: “Politics is a rough business, it’s very sad when someone pays the price.
“It’s important to remember that these people are human beings and the work they’ve done ought to be respected.
“I wish Cllr Burton and his family all the best.
“Going forward we will work with the new leadership and will continue to hold them to account and oppose them when we have to.”