A new era of working in partnership and listening has been promised by Suffolk County Councilâs newly-elected leader yesterday.
Councillor Matthew Hicks was elected by county councillors to lead the authority and will immediately take responsibility for many of the most vital public services, including roads, education and care for vulnerable adults and children.
In a speech following his election, he pledged to work with district and borough councils, other public sector partners, businesses and residents to find the best ways of delivering services to the people that need them most. He also confirmed Suffolk County Councilâs focus on major infrastructure projects, like the Lake Lothing and Upper Orwell Crossings, Ipswich Northern Relief Road and Sudbury Relief Road, as well as working with district and borough councils to create more homes that people can afford and in the right locations.
Speaking at the county councilâs annual meeting, Cllr Hicks said:
âThere is one common theme I wish to adopt across all aspects of our work and that is my pledge to adopt a new style of working â whether it be in this chamber, in this building or throughout our county.
âMy administration is committed to working collaboratively across Suffolk. I understand that no public sector organisation can afford to stand aloof and alone. This is no time for a bunker mentality. We must co-operate and collaborate to achieve the best for our residents.â
One of his first duties was to appoint the councillors â known as the Cabinet â who, with him, will be responsible for almost Â£500 million of public services each year.
Cllr Hicks will take personal responsibility for economic development and major infrastructure projects in addition to his leadership duties, and has appointed:
- Cllr Mary Evans as deputy leader and cabinet member for highways, transport and rural affairs
- Cllr Gordon Jones as cabinet member for childrenâs services, education and skills
- Cllr Rebecca Hopfensperger as cabinet member for adult care
- Cllr Richard Rout as cabinet member for environment and public protection
- Cllr Richard Smith as cabinet member for finance and assets
- Cllr James Reeder as cabinet member for health
- Cllr Paul West as cabinet member for Ipswich, communities and waste
Cllr Hicks has reserved his ability to appoint a ninth cabinet member pending a review of the new leadership arrangements.
A priority for Cllr Hicksâ administration is Suffolkâs roads, which includes investing an additional Â£21 million so that 1000 miles of Suffolkâs 4000-mile road network can be resurfaced by 2021. Cllr Evans, who takes responsibility for highways and transport in the councilâs new administration, said:
âNo matter who you are or what you do, if you live, visit or work in Suffolk you will at some point need to use our roads. Itâs one of the truly universal services the county council provides.
âFor that very reason itâs essential that we make sure they are maintained to as good a standard as possible. I know there is not enough money to do everything we want to do as quickly as we wish. But that means we must challenge ourselves even harder to find new and innovative ways of working and sources of funding. This is my focus because I want our roads to be fit for a thriving county like Suffolk.â
Cllr Hicks has also appointed deputy cabinet members to support the delivery of the councilâs 2017-2021 priorities:
- Cllr Louis Busuttil as deputy cabinet member for highways strategy
- Cllr Alexander Nicholl as deputy cabinet member for transport
- Cllr Craig Rivett as deputy cabinet member for childrenâs services
- Cllr Chris Chambers as deputy cabinet for education
- Cllr David Richie as deputy cabinet for adult care
- Cllr Robert Whiting as deputy cabinet member for property
Cllr Hicks paid tribute to Cllrs Colin Noble, Jane Storey, Tony Goldson and Robin Millar for their time in the Cabinet.
Ending his speech, Cllr Hicks said:
âThis is a new era. I would like to see us work more collaboratively in this chamber. I look forward to working with you all and indeed across the whole of Suffolk. We will continue to manage our finances in a prudent and sound manner, while delivering real change and real benefits to the people of Suffolk.â