A LABOUR councillor is to be sworn in as mayor of East Staffordshire as the borough council’s new controlling group begins to make its presence felt.
Experienced councillor Ron Clarke, who represents the Eton ward on East Staffordshire Borough Council, will take over the mayorial reins from May, with the position being snatched from under the nose of Tory David Leese.
The councillor had been due to be next in line for the role and has served as deputy under current incumbent Michael Rodgers since last year.
However, the shift in power at Burton Town Hall which saw former council leader Richard Grosvenor overthrown and replaced by Labour’s Julian Mott has disrupted the order of succession.
While voting for a change in leadership, the Labour group, assisted by the notorious ‘Tory rebels’ – consisting of Malcolm Barrett, Nathan Birnie, Robert Hardwick and Peter Ball – who now make up the East Staffordshire Independent Group, also pushed forward their own man for mayor.
His deputy will be Weaver ward representative Councillor Birnie, who defected from the Tory party last year.
Councillor Clarke’s wife Margaret is to become the new mayoress.
The decision comes as more good news for Councillor Clarke, who was recently given the all clear following his battle with prostate cancer.
But he admitted the manner in which he had arrived at the role had slightly dampened the occasion.
He said:“It is an honour but part of me wishes it was under different circumstances.
“But I have to take things as they are.”
Councillor Clarke admitted to the Post and Times that he had been caught slightly off guard by the decision.
“Instead of having 12 months as deputy I’ll be going straight into it, but that’s nothing unusual for me,” he said.
“I understand David isn’t very happy having been deputy for eight or nine months but I’m afraid that’s politics.”
Councillor Leese echoed his comments saying it was just how politics worked.
He said: “We were disappointed.
“We already had plans in place, but that’s the game of politics we play.
“When the ‘gang of four’ took away the majority I started to do the mathematics, so I can’t say I was totally surprised.”