Worthing Borough Council selects new leader

Worthing Borough Council selected a new council leader on Wednesday evening (November 10).

New Worthing Borough Council leader Kevin Jenkins
New Worthing Borough Council leader Kevin Jenkins

Kevin Jenkins (Con, Gaisford) was voted in by 18 votes for and 18 abstentions with no votes against.

Edward Crouch (Marine) is the council’s new deputy leader.

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There was no leadership challenge from Labour with Liberal Democrat Bob Smytherman (Tarring) saying: “I think we need to wait for the outcome of the Marine by-election.”

Kevin Jenkins was selected as Conservative group leader on Monday (November 8) and he will now take over from Dan Humphreys as council leader too.

Although he has stepped down as council leader, Mr Humphreys will continue to represent Offington as ward councillor.

Upon being selected as council leader, Mr Jenkins said he will task officers with ‘accelerating’ progress towards establishing a community cohesion committee – as voted for at the last full council meeting in October.

He paid tribute to the outgoing leader, saying: “Six and a half years is a long time to lead a council in collaboration with other colleagues in Adur, but also to lead a council that has really upped its game and moved itself forward – not only in its IT and digital platforms, where people are able to access services more readily, rather than coming to council offices.

“[The council] has moved with the times and reflected the times.

“No greater evidence of that has been supplied than during the Covid pandemic, when we were able to move to a digital platform, continue our services online, and our staff were online, when many other organisations across the UK were struggling.”

Mr Jenkins praised Mr Humphreys for ‘putting the councils at the forefront’, naming examples such as work on health and the District Heat Network.

He said WBC had become a ‘can do council’ and a ‘go to council’.

Mr Jenkins added that residents and businesses were relocating from London and Brighton to be in Worthing.

“People want to come to Worthing, people want to do business in Worthing and that is no small thing, to put Worthing on that map,” said Mr Jenkins.

Coalition council off the table for now

Mr McCabe (LDem, Tarring) had been discussing possible coalitions with either the Conservatives or Labour.

But, speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service earlier this week, newly selected council leader Mr Jenkins said it was ‘too early’ to be talking about the possibility of a coalition, which ‘may not even be necessary’ depending on the result of the Marine ward by-election on December 2.

The Conservatives currently lack a majority with 18 seats, Labour has 15 seats, the Lib Dems have three, and there is one vacancy following former Marine ward councillor Tim Wills’ resignation.

If there is no majority following the by-election, Mr Smytherman said he ‘stands ready to be the Nick Clegg of the council’, making reference to the former Lib Dem leader and deputy Prime Minister.

He said: “Regardless of whether Labour or the Conservatives lead the council, it’s right we put the people of Worthing absolutely above politics.”

What are responsibilities of council leader?

The council leader is usually the group leader from the largest party on the council.

The role of party group leaders and council leader are different.

Group leaders help to set the direction for their respective political groups whereas the council leader provides leadership and direction for the council as a whole.

The council leader also has responsibility for individual decisions relating to overall policy and strategy.

A full outline of the council leader’s role is set out in part three of WBC’s constitution.