New council leader promises to ‘put more emphasis on town matters’

Horsham District Council has elected a new leader.

Thursday, 27th May 2021, 1:55 pm

Paul Clarke (Con, Pulborough, Coldwaltham & Amberley) was named leader during the council’s Annual General Meeting on Wednesday (May 26), with Tony Hogben (Con, Colgate & Rusper) as his deputy.

The have taken over from Ray Dawe and Jonathan Chowen, both of whom stepped down recently.

Mr Clarke said of his predecessor: “He’s a very hard act to follow. One can do but one’s best.”

Paul Clarke was elected Horsham District Council leader. Pic by Steve Robards

His first act as leader was to double the size of the cabinet, in an effort to spread the workload and give more councillors the opportunity to take part.

He said: “Putting more emphasis on town matters is a very sensible thing to do, in my opinion, as the legacy of Covid will continue to haunt us for some time to come and that shadow will still remain.

“The town and its structures, the businesses and the other core activities will need closer focus and work over the next few years to recover from the events of the past 14 months or so.”

After the meeting, he added: “I am both delighted and proud to accept the position of leader of Horsham District Council and heartily look forward to getting to grips with the role. I thank all those who have put their confidence in me and voted for me.

Meanwhile David Skipp takes over as HDC's new chairman

“I am confident that the Cabinet I have appointed has the right people, with the right expertise and experience, to ensure this administration can continue to move positively towards social, economic, and environmental recovery across the Horsham district.

“This is a huge task and I look forward to getting to work straight away with the new Cabinet team to focus on supporting the needs of all communities and businesses in the district.

“I appreciate that I am taking over the helm at a difficult time in the wake of a pandemic, but I look forward to the future and tackling its challenges.”

The new cabinet will see Mr Hogben serve as cabinet member for Horsham town, parking and communications.

The others will be:

Claire Vickers – community and wellbeing

Tricia Youtan – housing and public protection

Philip Circus – environment, waste, recycling and cleansing

Richard Landeryou – finance and assets

Roger Noel – leisure and culture

Chris Brown – local economy

Lynn Lambert – planning and development.

The meeting also saw Dr David Skipp (Lib Dem, Forest) elected as chairman – taking over from Karen Burgess – with Kate Rowbottom (Con, Billingshurst) as vice-chair.

Nominated by Frances Haigh, Dr Skipp was described as ‘probably the most recognised person in the whole town’ and ‘a natural born leader’.

He started his year as chairman by sharing a message of hope for the town and its people as they start to move out of lock-down and repair the damage caused by the pandemic.

Dr Skipp said: “I look forward to representing this council at official functions. But also travelling around the district to meet more of the people who live and serve their communities in what I consider to be one of the most beautiful areas in this country.”

Karen Dunn , Local Democracy Reporting Service