‘A day that I’ve been dreading’: New Senedd Member emotional as he steps down from Council Leader role
Emily Gill, local democracy reporter
An emotional Peter Fox has closed a “huge chapter” in his life after stepping down as leader of Monmouthshire council after 13 years.
Cllr Fox has been a Monmouthshire county councillor for more than 20 years and leader for 13, but he stepped down on Thursday following his election as the new Senedd Member for Monmouth last week.
Speaking about time as leader of the council Cllr Fox said: “This is a day that I’ve been dreading as it closes a huge chapter in my life.
“A time I’ve enjoyed every minute of actually and I’m glad in a way that I’ve had to occupy my mind somewhere else for the last couple of days because I’ve been anxious about today.”
Cllr Fox said it felt “a bit final” but, would remain as a councillor for the next 12 months until the council elections in May 2022.
Talking about his first memories of his time as a county councillor, Cllr Fox said: “It all started in November 1997, I was elected in a by-election, hadn’t got a clue what I was doing.
“I was just a farmer. I didn’t think then what lay ahead of me or what I might do.”
The former leader of the council was elected to the role in 2008 in the May annual general meeting.
He described it as “the biggest day” and it was “a huge privilege to be leader”.
He said: “It’s always been a privilege every year. I’ve never taken the job for granted. I’ve worked with some of the most brilliant people over the years.”
Cllr Fox thanked all the councillors past and present and praised the newly elected leader of the council Cllr Richard John.
He also singled out the deputy leader Cllr Bob Greenland and the cabinet member for resources Cllr Phil Murphy.
“I couldn’t have led this in the way I have without their huge support, their dedication, their friendship and their professionalism and I thank both of them most sincerely,” he said.
“I’ve been blessed with having the support of a marvellous group and that’s been consistent for many years.”
Councillor Richard John was elected leader of Monmouthshire council, after being chosen as Conservative group leader at the council last month.
Cllr John has served as a county councillor representing Mitchel Troy since 2017 and has held responsibilities for education and leisure.
Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, Cllr John said: “It’s an absolute privilege to be elected leader of the council.
“I am excited by the opportunities to improve the life chances of everyone living in Monmouthshire. I am looking forward to working with all the councillors across all parties.”
When asked about his main priority as leader, Cllr John said: “The number one priority is ensuring children and young people have the best possible start in life.
“We only have one shot at our education that’s why we have invested tens of millions in our new school buildings.”
Cllr John also hailed the new schools in Caldicot and Monmouth as his biggest council achievement in the last four years as the cabinet member for education.
Speaking about his time in the role, Cllr John said: “We have made significant improvements in education standards and we’ve had very positive Estyn reports.
“I have enjoyed a really positive relationship with our school leaders.”
The leader said that supporting businesses, especially given the current coronavirus pandemic, would also be at the heart of the new administration.
Speaking in the AGM, the outgoing leader, Cllr Fox said: “Over the past four years Richard has been an outstanding cabinet member, he has earned the trust and respect of residents and councillors alike.
“He’s forged strong relationships across Wales representing the county, especially important right now as we emerge from the pandemic. I am more than confident that he will be an outstanding leader.”
During the AGM Cllr John unveiled his full cabinet including his two deputy leaders.
Cllr Bob Greenland will continue serving as deputy leader alongside the newly appointed Sara Jones.
Speaking about his appointments Cllr John said: “I have appointed a dynamic and progressive top team, from a wide range of professional backgrounds.
“There is a 50/50 gender split and I brought in the talent that joined the council in 2017.”
The full cabinet positions are as follows:
- Deputy leader and cabinet member for economy – Cllr Sara Jones
- Deputy leader and cabinet member for governance and strategic planning – Cllr Bob Greenland
- Cabinet member for resources – Cllr Phil Murphy
- Cabinet member for education – Cllr Paul Pavia
- Cabinet member for community wellbeing and social justice – Cllr Lisa Dymock
- Cabinet member for social care, safeguarding and health – Cllr Penny Jones
- Cabinet member for infrastructure and neighbourhood services – Cllr Jane Pratt.
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A Conservative but he was very supportive of the Eisteddfod when it was staged at Abergavenny.
The local appeal committee didn’t reach its target so the council underwrote the shortfall. It was probably enlightened self-interest because they realised the economic benefits of staging the festival, but it was encouraging to see Y Brifwyl held successfully in a county where the language is relatively weak, and a lot of it was down to him.