THE Labour group on Thurrock Council has asked former council leader John Kent to lead them until their May annual meeting.
Former group chief and leader of the opposition, Cllr Oliver Gerrish, stepped down at a special meeting of the group on Wednesday (29 August) evening.
The new leader said: “I have agreed to take the post because I believe it is imperative a strong and unified opposition is necessary to highlight, combat and correct the many mistakes being made by Thurrock Council.
“I fear for the future of the council. In a hung council there needs to be a strong culture of consensus building between groups that just isn’t there and there must be a culture of openness which, again, just doesn’t exist at the moment.
“We councillors must have trust in council officers and the officers must respect councillors; I too many cases that isn’t the case at the moment.
“That must change. I have been at this council long enough to remember the last time those relationships broke down and everything that followed.
“It’s not often I agree with our MP, but unless we get this sorted out – and it’s more and deeper than disagreeing about the number of homes to be built here – but if something’s not done soon, the government will intervene. That takes everything out of our hands as elected representatives.”
“I want to thank Oliver, but the job of opposition leader in a hung council is one that – as he found – takes up a lot of time and effort. I will do that for nine months, but no longer.
“We continue to question and scrutinise decisions and policies; I expect to be briefed honestly by officers on a regular basis; and I promise, as best I can, to ensure the council works for the best interests of all Thurrock’s residents.
“We need to make decisions, we need to look to the future, and we need to be sensible. Thurrock Council is split three ways and I call on both of the other two groups to join with me in putting things straight.”