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Tories take control at BCP Council as Mellor wins leadership vote

Drew Mellor is the new leader of BCP Council
Drew Mellor is the new leader of BCP Council

A CONSERVATIVE councillor will lead BCP Council after the group secured majority support at an extraordinary meeting last night (Thursday).

Cllr Drew Mellor beat competition from Liberal democrat Cllr Vikki Slade, having seen her deposed in his vote of no confidence last month, writes Josh Wright of the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

He said he would lead a council that is “collaborative, accountable and fair”.

Thursday night’s ballot was brought about following the success of a vote of no confidence against the Unity Alliance leader, Cllr Slade, saying she had presided over a coalition that had “lurched within 24 hours from one crisis and one U-turn to another”.

Cllr Mellor was nominated as leader by his deputy, Cllr Phil Broadhead, who said the council “needed a reset” with relationships that “had broken down” needing to be repaired.

Christchurch Independent Cllr Lesley Dedman, a member of the Unity Alliance cabinet, put forward Cllr Slade once again as the coalition’s candidate, praising her “integrity” and “honest desire to improve things for residents”.

Questions were raised by Liberal Democrat Cllr Mike Cox about Cllr Mellor’s past in business, highlighting two county court judgments over debts.

But Cllr Mellor hit back, asking which entrepreneur had not “made mistakes”.

In a secret ballot he won the support of 40 of the 74 elected members of BCP Council with Cllr Slade receiving 33 votes and one councillor abstaining.

He said an “inability of the previous administration to make decisions” had “hampered” its work and “squandered” opportunities”.

Instead he promised to lead a council that “preserves our outstanding natural environment and protect our ancient, medieval and more modern history while embracing the 21st century future”.

“We want to celebrate our towns, villages, high streets, harbours piers, beaches, parks and gardens, providing high quality education, work and leisure facilities all while showing a passion for those who need our help,” he said after his election.

“Our purpose is to make your area a place where people want to be, where young people thrive, where businesses prosper, where those in work flourish, where there is hope for those that need it and where the elderly are valued.

“We’re living in wholly unprecedented and worrying times, it is our job to provide certainty, confidence and optimism to our communities.”

Rather than appoint a cabinet immediately he appealed to the Christchurch Independents, who broke off from the Conservatives over the creation of BCP Council, to “take the weekend” to consider an offer to become a part of his administration.

However, the offer has been immediately rebuffed by the group which had dismissed similar offers in recent weeks.

“We stood on a platform in the elections last year that the Tories cannot be trusted to protect Christchurch and we won eight of the ten seats,” it said in a statement. “We stand by that position to retain our political and personal integrity.”

Cllr Mellor said he would meet with council chief executive Graham Farrant “at the earliest opposition” to began work to put his policies in place.

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