Former service station owner and ex-butcher Carl Les has been selected to lead the new Conservative-run North Yorkshire Council.
The Catterick councillor faced no opposition from the 46 other Tory councillors at the North Yorkshire County Council Conservative group’s annual meeting at Northallerton Methodist Church Hall yesterday.
It means he will solidify his position as the most powerful politician in the Harrogate district and the rest of North Yorkshire.
Cllr Les’ name will be put forward as leader of the authority at the first meeting of its 90 elected members on Wednesday next week.
If, as expected, he is elected he will then go on to select councillors to serve on the authority’s decision-making executive.
It is not known whether any from Harrogate will hold senior posts. Harrogate-based Don Mackenzie, the executive member for access at the county council, did not seek re-election at last week’s election.
Harrogate Borough Council leader Richard Cooper also did not seek re-election and his deputy, Graham Swift, lost the vote in his division.
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Cllr Les has been at the helm of the county council since 2015, having sold his business Leeming Bar Services, near Bedale, to Moto the year before.
He has also played a leading role in a spectrum of influential bodies including North Yorkshire Youth, Welcome to Yorkshire, the Local Enterprise Partnership, Citizens Advice and the Police and Crime Panel.
Thirsk’s Gareth Dadd to be deputy leader
After a challenge from a Conservative member who has not been named, the Tory group meeting saw Thirsk councillor Gareth Dadd elected as its deputy leader, a role which he has also held for seven years.
Following the meeting, senior Tories said they hoped the decisions would end the district and borough councillor versus county councillor rivalries that have existed for decades within Conservative ranks in North Yorkshire.
Political commentators have described the pair as “pragmatic One Nation Conservatives who above all prioritise vulnerable people who are unable to help themselves”.
They have stated the top of their agenda is to ensure a smooth transition to the new unitary authority next May, squeezing out savings from the reorganisation and to get devolution.
The meeting also saw councillors Tom Jones, of Bedale, Tim Grogan, of Monk Fryston and South Milford, and Esk Valley member Clive Pearson appointed to serve as whips, acting as the leadership’s “eyes and ears” in the Tory group, which has seen its majority shrink by about 20 per cent.
When asked if the group’s whips would be busier due to the decreased majority, Cllr Les said:
“They will have work to do to make sure people are getting to meetings or whatever.
“Not only do we have a majority over all the other parties, albeit a slim one of only two, but not everybody who is not a Conservative is against the Conservative proposals. As I did for the previous five years I will be reaching out to other members and groups to work on a common agenda as we are all there to serve the people of North Yorkshire.”