Cllr Cathy Gardner, Chair of East Devon District Council

Cllr Val Ranger, representing Newton Poppleford and Harpford, is elected as Vice Chair

Sidmouth councillor Cathy Gardner is the new Chair of East Devon District Council following an extraordinary meeting of the council last night. (Monday 8 June)

Cllr Gardner, who represents the Sidmouth Town ward and is a member of the Democratic Alliance Group, was elected unopposed.

She was proposed by Cllr Paul Arnott, Leader of East Devon District Council, who told the meeting:

The character and background of the chair of this council is more important at this troubling time than at any point in the last half century. Ideally, we would find an experienced councillor of ferocious independence of mind.

Perhaps we could specify further - how about at this time of Covid-19 a chair with a PhD in microbiology whose specialism is in the airborne distribution of infectious viruses?

By our great good fortune, precisely such a person is now entering her sixth year as a district councillor for Sidmouth Town, and therefore I have no hesitation and a measure of pride in nominating Cllr Cathy Gardner to become Chair of East Devon District Council.

Cllr Gardner’s appointment was seconded by Cllr Eileen Wragg, the Deputy Leader of the council, who said that Cllr Gardner "will bring a refreshing impartiality to meetings of Full Council", and that "She was impressive as the Chair of the recent Scrutiny meeting, exercising scrupulous fairness."

In accepting the role, Cllr Gardner said it would be an honour.

My intention is to ensure the highest standards of behaviour in the chamber, show respect to all and that we adhere to the Nolan principles. I’d like to refer particularly to the standard on Objectivity: that we act and take decisions impartially, fairly and on merit, using the best evidence and without discrimination. This has particular resonance today.

Cllr Val Ranger, a member of the Democratic Alliance Group, was elected as Vice Chair after she was proposed by Cllr Tony Woodward and Cllr Luke Jeffery.

Cllr Ranger, who represents the Newton Poppleford and Harpford ward and was the Vice Chair last year, told the meeting:

I see this role as a privilege and I look forward to working with the Chair and representing the Council at civic occasions for the rest of the year.