Councillor Caroline Topping has today, Wednesday 24 May, 2023, become the new Leader of East Suffolk Council.
Here, in full, is Cllr Topping's first address to Full Council as Leader:
Councillors, officers and members of the public – I am incredibly honoured to have been elected as Leader of East Suffolk Council tonight and I am also very proud to be its first female Leader.
As you will be aware, the Green, Liberal Democratic and Independent Members have formed the GLI group and we will be the new Administration. Over the past four years, we have developed a fantastic working relationship, building on our shared values, and I am humbled that the Group have chosen me to lead them.
I would now like to welcome all 55 Members who have been elected to represent the 29 different wards of East Suffolk Council. I know that we share the same passion and determination to improve the lives and outcomes of our communities, and I look forward to working with you all.
After many, many years of Conservative Administration at Suffolk Coastal, Waveney and East Suffolk Councils, our residents have now voted in huge numbers for Green candidates, and for something different. This a great opportunity to establish a new way of doing things.
Our communities have put their trust in us, and we will do our best to deliver what they want us to achieve.
On the doorsteps we heard how worried people were about affording food and heating. We know that the cost-of-living crisis has hit our communities really hard. People can’t find affordable housing; they are worried about their town centres, with shops and banks closing. And they are worried about the environmental legacy we are leaving for our children, with the threat of climate change already evident.
Therefore, this Administration will operate on the basis of clear priorities which reflect our shared values. These priorities will emphasise the critical importance of ecological sustainability and social justice.
We will ensure that these priorities contribute substantially to a green, fair and flourishing East Suffolk, and that they are meaningful and deliverable.
However, to achieve these things, we also understand that councillors must work in a spirit of collaboration. In this chamber, there have been historic frustrations about the absence of proper debate with opposition groups. This will be addressed, so we can all move forward collaboratively and work together for the benefit of our communities.
In addition, Officers will of course play a huge role. I have seen, as a Councillor, how dedicated and professional the officers of East Suffolk are, and the Administration is really looking forward to a productive and positive working relationship.
All members appointed to the new Cabinet have been given their positions because of the passion they have for particular issues and their real-life professional experiences, now or in the recent past.
Finally, I would like to reiterate a really important point to you all and to everyone watching and listening.
We are now a council comprising 55 Members of five different colours and I really do hope that we will be able to work constructively across all parties, with our residents, businesses, visitors and everyone who cares about East Suffolk in mind.