Historic night at Arun District Council as Lib Dems form administration

The new Liberal Democrats cabinet at Arun District Council
The new Liberal Democrats cabinet at Arun District Council

The Liberal Democrats have officially taken control of Arun District Council, ending more than four decades of Tory domination.

Following the local elections earlier this month the Lib Dems have 22 seats compared to the Conservatives’ 21, with eight independents, two Greens and Labour councillor.

At Wednesday’s meeting, a Lib Dem cabinet was appointed, with James Walsh elected leader after serving for 43 years on the council.

Dr Walsh described the moment as ‘extraordinarily humbling yet transformative’.

He argued the electorate had overwhelmingly voted for change in the Arun district and said they ‘aim to make that the fundamental driving force of this administration’.

He added: “We will be much more open, much more transparent and much more genuinely consultative on all matters with all of our residents.”

The Lib Dems intend to scrap the cabinet system and move to a committee system where ‘all members are involved in decision making and communicating that to the public’.

They also want to increase the number of affordable houses built in Arun and ensure infrastructure is put in ahead of new homes everywhere in the district.

Another priority was to improve ‘non-existent’ town-centre policing in Bognor Regis and Littlehampton in particular and return the streets to retailers, residents and visitors.

Dr Walsh said: “These are exciting times and I relish the opportunity. We aim to deliver change in the Arun district for the benefit of all our residents.”

Francis Oppler, who proposed Dr Walsh as leader, described how the retired GP ‘has a passion to help others’ and the ‘experience and skill to help make Arun one of the best places to live in the UK’.

The cabinet members are:

James Walsh - leader and cabinet member for economy

Francis Oppler - deputy leader and cabinet member for corporate support

Martin Lury - cabinet member for planning

Pauline Gregory - cabinet member for residential services

Daniel Purchese - cabinet member for neighbourhood services

Matt Stanley - cabinet member for technical services

Gillian Yeates - cabinet member for community wellbeing

At the same meeting Jeanette Warr was elected chairman for the forthcoming municipal year with Amanda Worne the vice chairman.

Terry Chapman is the Tory group leader, Tony Dixon will lead the independent group and Isabel Thurston will lead the Green group.