‘One Horsham district, fair for all’ is the new chairman of Horsham District Council’s theme for his year in the role.
Christian Mitchell took over the position from Tricia Youtan last night (Wednesday May 25), with Roger Clarke serving as his vice-chairman for 2016/17.
In his acceptance speech, Mr Mitchell (Con, Holbrook West) explained that his journey to the chairmanship ‘had not been without incident’, referencing his effective sacking as chairman-elect in early 2014 by members of his own party, but thanked colleagues for the confidence they had shown in him.
The next council year was particularly significant with The Queen’s 90th birthday coming up, and he described being ‘deeply honoured’ to be elected chairman of the Horsham district which was ‘the envy of just about every other district in the south east’.
Their facilities, which he called ‘second to none’, had been crafted over the last 25 years by dedicated councillors and officers, while receiving small levels of Government grants at the same time as keeping the council tax low.
He added: “As chairman of our council I am proud of the opportunities we provide for all in the district.
“Our shared priorities for the district of affordable and secure homes to rent or buy, more jobs with higher wages for the lowest paid, making it easier for all to set up and run a successful business, and of course making our environment safer, healthier and less polluted.
“It’s this council’s policies that are our tools to continue to strive to do the very best for the people we serve.”
Mr Mitchell praised the County Times for its ‘fearless and forthright coverage’, ensuring the council has the ‘best policies to protect those who need them the most in our district’.
The Dame Vera Lynn Children’s Charity, The Springboard Project, and the Horsham division of the St John Ambulance were the three chairman’s charities he wished to promote, alongside the Chairman’s Charitable Trust.
Mr Mitchell was a student at the College of Richard Collyer, and continues to live in the town, practising common law from his chambers in Guildford, where he specialises in divorce and child protection.
Toni Bradnum (Con, Nuthurst), who proposed him as chairman, explained how she had acted as his agent in 2003 when he was first returned to Holbrook West and every subsequent election.
The Lib Dems won the seat on the first count by several votes but following a recount the tables were turned and Mr Mitchell was elected.
He served as deputy group leader under Liz Kitchen, was a deputy cabinet member, and was chairman of HDC’s licensing committee from 2007 to 2013.
She added: “Having served twice as vice-chairman, Councillor Mitchell has had the unique opportunity of an extensive training programme in readiness for his new role, and he’s well versed in the duties and responsibilities necessary to carry out the role.
“He brings that experience to his role of chairman of the council.
“I know he will take his responsibilities seriously. He will uphold the council’s constitution and champion the role of backbenchers.”
Mr Mitchell thanked Mrs Youtan and her husband Jeff, praising her ‘immense contribution’ to the life of the district over the past year.
Mrs Youtan described her year as chairman as ‘most illuminating’, making her appreciate the work carried out by volunteers, and giving her the chance to represent the council at many civic events, memorial services, awards ceremonies, and school visits.
She thanked council officer Sue Franks, HDC chief executive Tom Crowley, and her husband Jeff.
Philip Circus (Con, Chanctonbury) added: “Thank you for all you have done in your year. What you have done is brought distinction to the role, and bringing that to the role you have brought distinction to us as a council and in a real sense to the district as well.”
Kate Rowbottom (Con, Billingshurst and Shipley), who proposed Mr Clarke for vice-chairman, described him as a man of ‘great compassion and integrity’.
Mr Clarke (Con, Cowfold, Shermanbury and West Grinstead) said he was ‘honoured and delighted’ to be made vice-chairman.
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