South Walks House in Dorchester was packed for the first meeting of the brand-new Dorset Council.
Eight-two newly-elected councillors, senior officers and a full public gallery filled the committee suite at South Walks House to debate the business of the new council and vote in its new leader and chairman.
During a lively public questions session, there were statements read and questions asked about the new council’s approach to environmental matters and specifically climate change, including questions from climate change group Extinction Rebellion and Friends of the Earth.
In response to this, Cllr Ray Bryan, Dorset Council’s portfolio holder for highways, travel and environment, said: “We have an opportunity and an obligation to demonstrate leadership – thinking globally about the implications of climate change and acting locally to help address it in our communities.
“The crucial need to tackle climate change is something that we can all agree on. It is an issue which transcends party politics and after discussions with the other group leaders we have agreed on the need to create a cross-party panel on climate change to develop a policy for Dorset Council.”
Further to this, a motion was proposed by Cllr Nick Ireland, leader of the Liberal Democrats, which asked for the council to recognise that climate change is happening and that the council agrees to declare a climate emergency.
Some 69 councillors voted to pass this motion, two voted against and six abstained meaning Dorset has officially declared a climate emergency.
Cllr Pauline Batstone has taken up the position of chairman. This role was previously held for the Shadow Dorset Council by Cllr Hilary Cox.
Cllr Batstone began the meeting by thanking Mrs Cox for her work and dedication over the past five years as Dorset County Council chairman and latterly as the chairman of the shadow Dorset Council.
Cllr Batstone said: “The next year is vital for setting the tone of the new council and the manner in which it operates as a 21st-century council.
“The aspirations and ambitions of this new council are for Dorset to be a place where people want to live, visit, learn and work and I am delighted to be able to play a key role in that.”
Cllr Spencer Flower was voted in as leader of Dorset Council.
Cllr Flower said: “This is a great honour and an immense privilege. As leader, I want to promote a collaborative approach to the delivery of quality public services, whilst dealing with the known challenges of rising demand and severe financial pressures.
“We need to create a ‘can-do culture’ within the council that puts the interests of our communities first. A member-led council, making a real and lasting difference in Dorset. This is a big job, but with the support of members in this chamber we really can make the difference our communities deserve.”
- Cllr Flower announced the members of the Dorset Council Cabinet, as follows:
- Leader / Governance, Performance and Communications – Cllr Spencer Flower
- Deputy Leader / Corporate Development and Change – Cllr Peter Wharf
- Finance, Commercial and Assets – Cllr Tony Ferrari
- Housing – Cllr Graham Carr-Jones
- Economic Growth and Skills – Cllr Gary Suttle
- Children, Education and Early Help – Cllr Andrew Parry
- Adult Social Care and Health – Cllr Laura Miller
- Planning – Cllr David Walsh
- Highways, Travel and Environment – Cllr Ray Bryan
- Customer, Community and Regulatory Services – Cllr Tony Alford
A further debate on the issue of climate change is on the agenda for the next meeting of the full council.