Saltcoats & Stevenston SNP councillor Willie Gibson was confirmed as the new Leader of North Ayrshire Council at the local authority’s first meeting since the May 3rd Election.
On his appointment, Cllr Gibson told last Wednesday’s (May 16) meeting, “It is an honour to become leader after having been a councillor for only five years.” The retired deputy head-teacher indicated he intended to “look after the whole of North Ayrshire”, and praised his predecessor, Labour’s David ONeill, whom he described as being “a gentleman and man of his word”.
Continuing the conciliatory tone of his speech, Mr Gibson further praised Cllr O’Neill by stating the Labour man had “done a great job” as Leader of the Council.
The SNP will run the local authority as a minority administration, requiring the support of at least four opposition councillors to secure a majority on a vote of the full Council. The recent election saw 12 SNP councillors elected to Labour’s 11, with six Independents and one Tory holding the balance of power.
Cllr Gibson praised Independent councillors, “particularly those who have been re-elected”, adding it was “harder to get elected as an Independent”. The Council Leader stated there would be no coalition with any Independents, but said he “appreciated their contribution” and that he looked forward to “working with them on a case-by-case basis”.
The Deputy Leader of the Council is Alan Hill, SNP councillor for the North Coast & Cumbrae. Cllr Hill, a solicitor, has served his local community since first being elected in 1999.
The top civic role in North Ayrshire was secured by the SNP’s Joan Sturgeon, who defeated Labour’s Ian Clarkson 17-12 to become the area’s Provost. Mrs Sturgeon is councillor for Irvine East and mother of Scotland’s Deputy First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon MSP. On being elected to the position of Provost, Cllr Sturgeon indicated she was “honoured”, and would “do my best in the role”.
The SNP nominated Independent councillor Robert Barr (Dalry & West Kilbride) for the position of Deputy Provost, while Labour proposed Jim Montgomerie (Saltcoats & Stevenston). In a vote, Cllr Barr secured the position by 17-11. On taking his place next to Provost Sturgeon, Robert Barr thanked members for their support and said he would “do my best to be an ambassador for North Ayrshire,” adding, “I will treat everyone with the respect I expect to get.”
Since last week’s meeting, the SNP has confirmed it has scrapped the Executive operated by the previous Labour administration. There will now be a seven-member Cabinet overseeing the work of Council departments and chairing Cross-Party Policy Boards.
Council Leader Willie Gibson will have responsibility for Strategy, Community Planning and Community Health: while Deputy Leader Alan Hill will look after Community and Culture, Policy and Service.
Other cabinet appointments are:
Tony Gurney – Education Attainment and Achievement
Marie Burns – Economic Development and Regeneration
Anthea Dickson – Health and Social Care
John Ferguson – Environment and Infrastructure
Alex McLean – Finance and Corporate Support
Last Wednesday’s Council meeting also agreed to appoint Ardrossan & Arran Independent councillor John Hunter as Chair of a new Scrutiny and Petitions Committee (see separate story), while Saltcoats & Stevenston Independent Ronnie McNicol will Chair both the Licensing Board and Licensing Committee.
Former SNP Group Leader Matthew Brown will Chair the Planning Committee, while Labour councillor Peter McNamara (Ardrossan & Arran) will Chair a new Audit Committee.