Councillor Emily Smith has bid an emotional farewell to the leadership role at Vale of White Horse District Council, and has handed over the reins of the top job to her deputy.
Councillor Smith (Lib Dem, Botley & Sunningwell) vacated the leadership role with immediate effect during a meeting of the full council on Wednesday, 07 December 2022.
She has taken a new full-time job with a local charity and put forward Councillor Bethia Thomas (Lib Dem, Faringdon) as her replacement. Despite staying on as a councillor, Councillor Smith battled in vain to fight back the tears during her resignation speech.
“I have accepted an offer of full-time employment from a local charity and will no longer be able to give the role of council leader the time attention it deserves,” she said.
“It was an incredibly difficult decision to make. I have absolutely loved being the leader of the Vale of White Horse District Council and the Liberal Democrat group.
“It genuinely is a role like no other, and I am incredibly proud of what we have achieved over the past four years. I would like to thank every single member and every single officer for the work that you do day in and day out on behalf of our residents.
“I have learned a huge amount working with Mark (Stone, chief executive) and the senior management team. Our officers really are the best. I am especially grateful to my cabinet for your work, challenge and guidance.
“Thank you to the opposition members for your support and scrutiny. I have lost count of the number of times people have commented on how respectful and civil our council chamber is compared to other councils, as politics should be. Long may that continue.
“Together, we have made real progress stabilising the council’s financial position, supporting our communities through a global pandemic and putting tackling the climate emergency at the heart of all of our decision-making.
“I will continue to serve as councillor for the Botley & Sunningwell ward and look forward to supporting my successor over the next stage of our council’s journey.”
Councillor Thomas also represents Faringdon on Oxfordshire County Council. Her profile on the county’s website details that she has lived and worked there for more than 15 years and considers herself “a community campaigner, supporting local groups and securing funds for local facilities”.
The profile continues: “I was born and brought up in Australia and am a single parent, which I believe has influenced the way I see things, wanting to relate to all residents to ensure their voices are heard. I am committed to being a hardworking, community-led representative.”
Her work as a county councillor on outside bodies includes appointments to the adoption and permanency panels and fostering panels as well as being a military champion for the Defence Academy of the United Kingdom.
Having been elected without dissent by the Liberal-dominated council, Councillor Thomas confirmed the cabinet – the team that takes responsibility for the main areas of the council’s work – would be “largely unchanged”.
Having thanked Councillor Smith for establishing the “strong footing from which we can move forward”, Councillor Thomas vowed to draw on the cabinet’s “enormous body of knowledge” and experience.
“Let’s get to work on doing the best we can for our council, our communities and most importantly, our residents,” she added.
Councillor Neil Fawcett (Lib Dem, Abingdon Caldecott), a county councillor and the Chief of Staff for Oxford West & Abingdon MP, Layla Moran, takes up the role of deputy leader.