Marine ward councillor Beccy Cooper was chosen as the new leader of Worthing Borough Council.
She was the first Labour borough councillor to be elected in 2017 for four decades and nearly five years later is now the leader of the town’s first Labour council.
Labour took control from the Conservatives at the local election on May 5. They now have 23 seats, while the Conservatives have 13 seats, and the Liberal Democrats have one.
At the annual council meeting, a visibly emotional Dr Cooper said: “I feel overwhelmed. What a historic occasion it is for us. Not only do we have Henna Chowdhury as our first female Muslim mayor, but, I really can’t believe I’m saying this, we are finally here in Worthing’s first Labour council.
“This Labour council has been built in the heart of our communities; thousands of hours of hard work being put in by so many people who want to see a change for our town and believed that it was possible.
“My amazing fellow 22 Labour councillors who I have the privilege of sitting here with today are the best team that I could possibly hope for.
“Change is not always easy and, particularly for a place like this, hasn’t happened that often.
“So we appreciate that things may not always be plain sailing. We pledge to work hard with you to get the best for the people of Worthing.
“The opposition isn’t where politicians like to sit but I do thank our opposition in advance for holding us to account.”
Dr Cooper says a Labour council means ‘fairness and social justice’ and addressing an ‘inequality gap’.
“Whilst we know that much of this is a result of poor decision making in Westminster, as local councillors we will positively employee the resources that we have to address these issues,” she said.
She says the council will work towards a day when food banks are no longer necessary and wants to make the town ‘safe and healthy for all’.
Labour has also promised to declare a poverty emergency and work with organisations to address ‘economic distress’.
Dr Cooper promised to pay attention to ‘less heard’ voices to decide how council money is spent.
“The Town Hall doors are now open,” she said.
Labour’s priorities are set out in a 100 day plan, including a ‘Big Listening’ campaign this summer and a ‘Big Clean Up’.
A team will also be tasked with building council housing stock.
The new leader also spoke of her ambition to make Worthing the ‘greenest town on the South Coast of England’ with a food waste collection promised.
Labour also wants to move some meetings out of the Town Hall as well as reviewing traditions such as the Mayoralty.
Notably, Labour members did not wear ceremonial council robes during the annual meeting.
“The Labour group decided to not wear council robes to show our great tradition of standing beside people and not apart from them,” said councillor Cooper.