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Cabinet appointments bring faces both familiar and new
A NEW and expanded Conservative Cabinet has been elected to lead Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council.
New council leader Councillor Andrew Finney (left) celebrates with fellow Conservatives at the recent local elections inset: James Lewin and Horace Mitchell, both of whom are members of the new Cabinet
The Cabinet includes a new post of finance, property and performance - indicating that one of the leadership team's priorities will be keeping a close eye on the council budget in the worsening economic climate.
New council leader Councillor Andrew Finney, who was elected to the post at Thursday's full council meeting, said: "The new Cabinet is a blend of experience and new faces, with key skills to build on the solid foundations of the last two years."
The Cabinet has bid farewell to former leader Cllr John Leek and Cllr Cecilia Morrison, the housing and regeneration portfolio holder.
Joining the Cabinet is Cllr Cathy Osselton, replacing Cllr Morrison, to head up the renamed housing and health portfolio, and Cllr Anne Court, who takes over the environment brief from Cllr Elaine Still.
Cllr Still moves to the education and community support portfolio, taking on many of the responsibilities previously handled by Cllr Finney.
She wants to work with the Older People's Forum to identify and support the needs of older residents. She will also work with Hampshire County Council on five new children's centres in the borough and will listen to young people while developing new youth facilities.
Cllr Still said: "I want to engage with local groups as quickly as possible."
Cabinet newcomer Cllr James Lewin will fill the new finance role. He previously chaired the economic and community overview committee.
Cllr Lewin said: "Finance touches on everything the council does. Our property portfolio is a major asset on the borough's balance sheet and both must be carefully managed in the more difficult economic climate which now faces us."
The performance part of his job would continue the "fit for purpose" programme designed to streamline delivery of council services, he added.
Cllr Keith Chapman remains in charge of sport and leisure, Cllr Clive Sanders continues to lead the community safety and development brief, which will now include responsibility for regeneration, and Cllr Horace Mitchell maintains responsibility for transport issues in the renamed planning and infrastructure portfolio.
The new Cabinet, council committees and membership of outside bodies were approved at Thursday's meeting and the Conservatives used the 10-seat majority they acquired at May's elections to appoint all the representatives and committee chairmen they wanted.
Liberal Democrat group leader Cllr Paula Baker was worried by the Conservatives' interest in the scrutiny committee, which acts as a watchdog on council policies, and their torpedoing of the Liberal Democrat candidate for chairmanship of that committee in favour of Labour's Cllr Paul Harvey.
She said: "It sends a clear signal that the administration wants to control scrutiny of its own actions, which is wrong."
Labour group leader Cllr Laura James was upset all the housing association roles went to Tories, including some with far less social housing in their wards than some Labour members.
She questioned the reappointment of Cllr Osselton to Sentinel Housing Association, given her new Cabinet housing role.
"There is a conflict," she told The Gazette, after the meeting. "When we are awarding them money and land, we need to be seen to be transparent on that."
After being made aware of Cllr James' comments, Cllr Osselton told The Gazette: "I'm grateful to Cllr James for raising concerns that it may sometimes put me in an uncomfortable position.
"Although there would be no problem with me staying, I have decided to resign from the board of Sentinel, so there is no possibility of it ever being an issue."
The issue of who will be appointed to the Sentinel position will be decided in the near future.