Thursday, 21 April 2011

Vice Chair-Elect of Ceredigion County Council - Cllr Mark Cole

It's been a hot day. A beautiful April day. Just right for donning some summer clothes. I however, have been wearing my suit - all day long!

This evening, Cardigan Town Council had one of it's two annual grants evenings in the Guildhall where the Council gives out cheques to worthy local causes. It's a lovely occasion and I had the great fortune during the last municipal last year of being able to chair both occasions when I was Mayor of Cardigan.

The Chains of Ceredigion
It was quite apt because this morning, we had a full meeting of Ceredigion County Council in Aberaeron and at the end of the agenda, it was that time of the year once more to choose who the Chair-Elect and Vice Chair-Elect of Ceredigion County Council would be for next year - 2011-2012.

In Ceredigion, more often than not, when it comes to choosing our Chair, we take the party politics out of the equation and ensure as far as possible, a reasonable rotation of this important position between the respective Welsh Liberal Democrat, Plaid Cymru and Independent groups on the Council (there is in addition, 1 Labour member of the Council who sits on the Cabinet). I'm not so sure that every one of Wales' 22 authorities are as fair in the way that it decides on which political parties or none should be given this position.  It is to Ceredigion's credit that we do.

The current Chair is Cllr Haydn Lewis, a highly respected and long-standing Independent Councillor for Penparc ward which happens to border my own Cardigan Rhyd-Y-Fuwch ward. Our current Vice-Chair, Cllr Catherine Hughes is the Plaid Cymru Councillor for Tregaron. As is the custom, she was unanimously supported today in Council from all sides of the Chamber, to become what will be Ceredigion County Council's first female Chair, at the Council's AGM on Friday 20th May.

This meant that the next Vice Chairman should come from the Welsh Liberal Democrat benches - the last from our group being Cllr Fred Williams who was Vice Chair in 2006-07 and Chair in 2007-08. It was with great humility that I found myself in the unexpected position of being proposed and seconded for the role by my fellow colleagues today.

Why unexpected? Well, perhaps because for one so young, I didn't expect to be given the opportunity to be Vice Chair at such a relatively tender age. Indeed, when at the last AGM in May 2010, the then out-going Chair, Lampeter's Independent member Cllr Ivor Williams asked me to give the official vote of thanks, I was incredibly touched at the gesture. For it was the first time in my 6 years on the Council that I was to play a formal role in the AGM. I honestly thought at that time that it may well be the only time that I may ever have a formal part to play at that annual event.

Yet having said that, I was elected in 2004 at the same time as Catherine Hughes so we have now both served as County Councillors for 7 years - giving us both ample time to have learned the Council ropes with its procedures and formalities. In that time I have already served a two year term as the Chair of the Environmental Services and Housing Scrutiny Committee and of course at a community council level, I proudly served as both Deputy Mayor and then Mayor of Cardigan between 2008-2010 and in doing so, became at the age of 26, one of the youngest known Mayors in Cardigan's history.

So it was a humble experience today to find my colleagues putting forward my name to become what will be the youngest Vice Chair in Ceredigion County Council's history, at the age of 28. My Welsh Liberal Democrat group leader and Cabinet Member for Education, Aberystwyth's Cllr Ceredig Davies proposed me and the Independent Councillor for Capel Dewi ward near Llandysul, the Cabinet Member for Finance Cllr Peter Davies seconded the proposal.

There have been times in years gone by when opposing candidates have been put forward against the unwritten Ceredigion code mentioned above. Today however, it was a real pleasure to have the Council support the proposal unanimously with my Plaid Cymru Council colleagues putting their hands in the air in unison with my Welsh Liberal Democrat and Independent colleagues. It was a particularly nice gesture for the Plaid Cymru Councillors for Llanbadarn Sulien and Beulah, Cllr Paul James and Cllr Lyndon Lloyd to come over to congratulate me on my election as Vice Chair-Elect. It doesn't happen every year but when it does, like today, it shows that we can as a Council put aside party political differences. It's gives me an uplifting sense of humanity.

So having served as Deputy Mayor and Mayor of Cardigan, I'm now looking forward to working as the new Vice Chair of Ceredigion County Council alonsgide our new Chair, Cllr Catherine Hughes and I will give her my 100% support in that role once we assume our new positions on May 20th.

I'm going to be wearing that suit more often once more - no matter what the weather!


  1. May I say how nice it is to see a report of a local council meeting where a) all councillors are identified by party and ward and b) no one raising any hackles about a meeting being published online.

    Could I enquire then and ask whether this means that following (or just prior to) the local elections next year, you will be able to say on your leaflets "Re-Elect Cllr. Mark Cole, Chair of Ceredigion Council"?

  2. Hi Harry. I wrote this after the meeting but as it was a public gathering open to the press, I am merely noting the facts of the event. As it turns out on this occasion, there were no members of the press in the public gallery.

    I wouldn't be able to use those words Harry as I wouldn't be the Chair prior to the elections - that would follow on the presumption that I am re-elected!

  3. Well done mark! Sounds like you're doing real well!