Posted: Sat 20th Apr 2024

New Forest of Dean District Council leader vows to tackle funding shortfall /

An “inexperienced” councillor has been elected to lead a Gloucestershire council less than a year after a new administration took it over.
Green Party councillor Adrian Birch, who was first elected to represent Tidenham last May, now has the top job at Forest of Dean District Council.
Outgoing leader Mark Topping (G, Lydney West and Aylburton) who stood down due to work and family commitments proposed Cllr Birch to be the new leader at a meeting in Coleford tonight (April 18).
Cllr Birch told the full council meeting that he was humbled and honoured by the cross party trust the council had put in an “inexperienced councillor”.
He said he hopes to confound his critics and has been inspired by his predecessor’s leadership and kind support.
And thanked senior councillors and officers for their work and said he would set out his vision for the Forest of Dean later this year.
The work on the local plan, the council’s blueprint for development in the district, is a “a good example of a good party working in recent weeks”, he said.
He also told the meeting he wants to tackle the £2.9m shortfall in funding they inherited from the last council but warned it will require “tough decisions”.
Another of his aspirations is to see more use of energy efficient passivhaus homes used for social housing. After a short service commission in the Royal Navy, Cllr Birch studied building surveying at Thames Polytechnic.
He worked for various architect and surveying firms for ten years in London before relocating to Brockweir with his family in 1984. His children attended Tutshill School and Wyedean.
Cllr Birch worked in senior roles in two firms in Bristol before setting up his own practice in 1990, eventually retiring in 2022.
During this time, he was a senior lecturer at the University of the West of England until 2013 and a board member of Two Rivers Housing from 2009 to 2018.
He joined the Green Party in 2015 and they say he been an active campaigner ever since.
Cllr Birch says he wants to encourage thriving, happier and healthier communities for all sorts of reasons, knowing that only together will we be able to face an uncertain future.
Some 25 councillors voted for Cllr Birch to be leader and he received the backing of Labour, Liberal Democrat, Independent councillors as well as his own group.
Conservative councillor Harry Ives (C, Lydney North) proposed Nick Evans (C, Tidenham) to be leader however he only received the backing of the Tories and the Progressive Independents. This amounted to five votes in favour. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

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