Tamworth Borough Council has a new Leader after Cllr Jeremy Oates was appointed to the role with immediate effect during a meeting of the Full Council on Tuesday, February 23.
He takes over from Cllr Daniel Cook, who is stepping down after 12 years at the helm of the authority. Cllr Cook said the time was right to hand over the reins while he devotes more time to his family and the new baby he and his wife are expecting this spring.
While the handover was originally due to start on March 1, Cllr Cook offered his resignation with immediate effect as a show of confidence in Cllr Oates.
The current portfolio holder for growth and regeneration, Cllr Oates has served on Tamworth Borough Council continuously for more than two decades, having been successfully elected to represent the town in seven consecutive elections since 2000 - first for Belgrave ward until 2002 and in Trinity ward since then.
He has held various roles, including scrutiny chair, cabinet member, deputy mayor, mayor, deputy leader and also previously served as Leader of the Council, between 2006 and 2009. He is now looking forward to taking on the challenge for a second time.
Cllr Oates was nominated to lead the council by Cllr Ben Price, seconded by Cllr Alex Farrell. This was confirmed by 21 votes.
Handing over to Cllr Oates, and resigning the role he has held for more than a decade, Cllr Cook said: “Other than fatherhood, leadership of this council has been the honour and privilege of my life. To be elected 12 times as Leader shows a great confidence from all the fantastic councillors I have served with; great men and women who loved their community no matter their political colours.
“But Madam Mayor, let’s be real. I am now the past, for now. This meeting needs to embrace the future; Cllr Jeremy Oates is the new Leader and let’s move forward with confidence and truly embrace the changes and improvements Jeremy will bring.
“Jeremy, you have my full support, and anything you need of me just ask, or you may find it done before you need to on some occasions my friend. Don’t rest on the things I did, make them better, for that’s why we serve.
“Jeremy is the right choice for the future of Tamworth. With that in mind Madam Mayor, I wish to retract my intention to resign as Leader of this Council effective 1st March 2021, I offer my resignation with immediate effect, that’s the confidence I have in Jeremy.
“I would therefore hand over now Madam Mayor and leave you with a thought Jeremy already understands. Leadership of this Council does not come with a guidebook, or a manual or a road map. You simply experience Council Leadership - with all its ups and downs. The thing about experience is it can be a cruel teacher, it offers up both the lesson and the exam at the same time.
Cllr Oates thanked councillors for their support and said: “We have a good council and this is a great town with some fantastic assets, but that doesn’t mean we can become complacent, we can’t rest on our laurels. We need to be more dynamic and more responsive, just as we have in the last 12 months.
“Tamworth was once the beating heart of the ancient kingdom of Mercia, we need it to be that beating heart again, now and in the future. We have the opportunity to drive that change through projects such as the Future High Streets Fund, the Gungate project and the Recovery & Reset programme.
“We also need to be an engaging authority, listening and talking to people so we can go on that journey together.”
Cllr Oates also gave his commitment to the Opposition group that they will continue to work together constructively.
He then went on to pay tribute to his predecessor Cllr Cook and the impact he has had on the council and the town during his 12 years as Leader.
“A handful of us on the council now were here when Danny stepped into the breach in 2009. Since then, we have watched him grow as the whole world changed around him, and yet, he has remained consistent throughout that time. Even through all the years of austerity, he has helped produce a budget with minimum impact on public services, this is a fantastic achievement considering all the pressures we were under.
“Tamworth has changed massively. A big thank you to Danny as Leader.”
A number of tributes were paid by fellow councillors across the chamber to thank Danny and to welcome Jeremy, including the Mayor Cllr Rosey Claymore, who offered her congratulations.
Leader of the Opposition, Cllr Simon Peaple, said: “Congratulations to Cllr Oates. I thank him for his positive approach to our relationship as Agents during the 2017 General Election and during more than 20 years in local politics and look forward to working with him.”
Andrew Barratt, Chief Executive of Tamworth Borough Council, said: “It has been an honour to work with Cllr Cook in his role as Leader during the last 11 years, during which he has faced some huge challenges during his term and handled them well, at the same time as raising a family and holding down a demanding full-time job too. He’s played an integral role in shaping the council as we know it and I’d again like to reiterate thanks on behalf of all us at Tamworth Borough Council. We’d also like to wish him and his wife Michelle all the best in this next exciting chapter in their lives.
“We now welcome Jeremy to the role and look forward to working with him on the challenges and exciting projects to come.”