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New leader has ''laser focus'' on helping most vulnerable

Photo of Councillor Zoe Nicholson

Lewes District Council has elected a new leader this evening (15 July) at a meeting of Full Council. Councillor Zoe Nicholson will lead the council having been deputy leader for the last 12 months. Councillor Nicholson takes over from Councillor James MacCleary.

The leadership election was contested by Councillor Isabelle Linington, with Councillor Nicholson elected by 20 votes to 16, with one abstention.

Councillor Nicholson said: "I would like to thank James for his leadership during this year. It's a partnership between James and I, and I look forward to working together with cabinet, the whole council and community, business leaders and partners over the coming year. It's going to be tough, but with collaboration and care for our community we will work together to deliver on our promises.

"Sadly, it is clear that the impact of the pandemic will continue to be felt across our district. In East Sussex during last year unemployment rose by 50% and we have also seen big increases in people claiming benefits, needing support with their council tax and receiving debt advice. I will have a laser focus on supporting these residents, the people who need our help most.

"I will also drive our response to the climate emergency with more determination than ever. The government's own climate change committee has acknowledged that not enough is being done which, when you consider the existential threat to our planet and our way of life, is truly shocking. In Lewes we will work tirelessly to become carbon net zero by 2030, support local clean energy generation, create green jobs, build sustainable council homes, protect green spaces and encourage greater biodiversity."

Councillor Nicholson and Councillor MacCleary are part of the Co-operative Alliance that took control of the council in 2019. The alliance believes that leadership should be shared and the role of leader is rotated between the Green Party and the Liberal Democrats on an annual basis. 

Councillor MacCleary said: "Congratulations to Zoe and I look forward to continuing our work together. I take huge pride knowing that different political parties and independents within the alliance continue to coalesce around a determination to help those in most need, support local businesses and tackle the climate emergency head-on.

"When you look at what we have achieved already for people waiting for a home of their own, residents on the lowest incomes, businesses in need of support during the pandemic and across a spectrum of environmental issues, it certainly confirms our decision in 2019 to turn the page on politics in Lewes district and do things a bit differently."