Town Hall starts work under new management

Town Hall starts work under new management

At Wednesday’s Full Council meeting (May 25), the first since the May 5 elections – which saw the Lib Dem group overtake the Tories as the largest party at TWBC – Cllr Ben Chapelard was voted in as the new Leader of the Council.

Cllr Chapelard, who works as a language teacher at a secondary school in Kent, was backed by all 13 members of his own party as well as those from the Tunbridge Wells Alliance (TWA), which has nine councillors, and the Labour group, which has seven.

The three parties have agreed a coalition deal to control the authority.

It will see members of the Council’s cabinet – the decision-making committee at the authority – shared among the three parties.

Under Cllr Chapelard there will be three other Lib Dem members of the cabinet along with two members of the TWA and two members of the Labour Group.

Lib Dem Andy Hickey made the nomination, addressing thanks to former leader Tom Dawlings.


“A vote for Ben is a vote to endorse and embrace this positive new way of working, and I ask members to support this motion.”


Seconding the nomination was Cllr Nancy Warne (TWA), who is also deputy leader. She said that despite leaving the Lib Dem party, she had ‘watched Ben’s persistence and tenacity in his representation of his residence on this council, and building support for his party to the current success they have today.

“And we find that our paths come together again where they have now brought together councillors to form a new administration. Councillors who are willing to bridge across difference and, where necessary, make compromises, in order to focus on the job in hand, to try to deliver the best outcomes for our communities across the whole borough, both urban and rural.

“A vote for Ben is a vote to endorse and embrace this positive new way of working, and I ask members to support this motion.”

Following Cllr Chapelard’s nomination as leader, former leader Cllr Tom Dawlings told the chamber: “I have addressed the role of leader as a full-time job, with morning, afternoon and evening commitments.”

Commenting on the relationships he had built, he added: “Ben, I wish you well in your role as leader, but would ask that you don’t consider it too much a part-time job.”



However, in an interview following the full council, Cllr Chapelard confirmed he was ‘in talks’ with his school to reduce his hours, to dedicate time to the job.

The coalition, to be called the Borough Partnership, will focus on five priorities, with the Cabinet portfolios reorganised around them.

A new mayor was also voted in at the authority.

Conservative Hawkhurst & Sandhurst councillor, Godfrey Bland, the current deputy mayor, has replaced outgoing mayor Chris Woodward.

Liberal Democrat Cllr Hugh Patterson, who represents Capel, was elected as Deputy Mayor.

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