Chorley Council's main aim is pandemic recovery as new term begins
The leader of Chorley Council says that the authority’s top priority is to get the borough “back on its feet” after the pandemic.
Alistair Bradley was speaking at the first full council meeting since his Labour group retained control of the district in the local elections earlier this month.
It was also the first wholly in-person meeting at the town hall since the first national lockdown, after temporary rules permitting remote and hybrid gatherings were allowed to expire by the government. The event was held in the Lancastrian suite as the council chamber is too small for the ongoing social distancing requirements.
“Hopefully, we are coming out of [Covid] and the local blips around the Indian variant are only temporary,” Cllr Bradley said.
He also urged Lancashire’s local authorities to continue to co-operate once the pandemic is in the past, just as they have done in their attempts to get through it. He said that the arrival of a new leader at Lancashire County Council – with Phillippa Williamson expected to be installed this week – “has to, and will, create more joint working across Lancashire”.
“To do anything else, after we have worked so well through the pandemic, would be foolish and a retrograde step. I, for one, will be urging closer working across Lancashire,” pledged Cllr Bradley.
He was addressing a familiar face during the meeting in the form of returning Conservative opposition group leader Martin Boardman, who is back in the role little more than a year after stepping back from it. He has replaced John Walker, who remains a councillor on the authority, but announced during the election campaign that he would be relinquishing the Tory leader role.
Cllr Boardman acknowledged that Labour had “bucked the trend” with their local success, but added: “It’s nice to see that the margin is coming down. It might be slow, but we’re creeping there and to go from seven councillors sitting here last year to 13 this year, I think we’ve done very well and…I look forward to a really exciting year ahead.”
Labour scooped 29 of the 42 seats on the newly slimmed-down authority, which held an all-out election for every seat this year as a result of boundary changes since the last poll in 2019.
For Cllr Bradley, it was an “endorsement of Chorley Labour policies” after nine years as the ruling group in the borough.
He also said he wanted to dispel “the myth” put forward by the Conservatives during the election that the Labour group “ignores the rural areas”.
“I think we need to shoot that fox once and for all and move on and have a proper discussion about how we do what’s best for all the residents of Chorley,” added Cllr Bradley, pointing to the fact that Labour councillors represented a range of more rural seats in the district.
One change to the council’s cabinet was also announced, with Peter Gabbott becoming the executive member for homes and housing, replacing Graham Dunn who did not stand at the elections.