Preston is to see a new man in power at the Town Hall as Labour elected a new leader on Friday evening.Advertisement
Councillor Matthew Brown is to step up from his previous cabinet role to take the helm of the party.
Winning two new seats in Thursday’s local elections means he has a majority of eleven council seats in the council chamber ahead of formally becoming the leader of Preston City Council on Thursday 17 May.
First-elected in 2002 for Tulketh ward the 46-year-old has risen to prominence in the last 18 months.
The architect of ‘The Preston Model’ – which aims to get major institutions in the city to focus more of their buying and investment within the city boundaries – Cllr Brown is also pointed to as one of the guiding hands behind Labour picking up two seats in Fulwood.
Speaking to Blog Preston cllr Brown said: “I’m delighted and privileged to be elected as leader of the party in Preston and also to become council leader.
“It’s been a real slog the last five weeks and I would like to thank everyone who has been out there on the doorstep and campaigning.
“My message for the people of Preston is that we have to do things different. I think too often we look to attract people in to invest here rather than making the most of what we have – and we have some great local businesses and local talent we should be making more of.
“We set out our manifesto for the city and it’s up to us to now bring that about and explain what we’re doing to the people of Preston.”
Cllr Brown succeeds the acting Labour leader councillor Robert Boswell – who decided not to stand to become permanent leader of the party.
He had taken on the role temporarily from councillor Peter Rankin who has retired from politics after being diagnosed with a brain tumour.
Cllr Brown said: “We all wish Peter well, and we missed him during the campaign.
“He can be so proud of everything he has achieved as leader of the council for the last seven years and he really put Preston on the map.
“Peter was incredibly supportive of my ideas as a cabinet member and helped me to develop them and make them happen. We will miss him.”
Read more: Temporary chief executive of Preston City Council is confirmed
As cabinet member for social justice and inclusion Cllr Brown has been making headlines on a national level for some of his policies.
He has started a council-backed bank, as he says the financial institutions of the country ‘don’t offer the investment local people need’ and has pushed hard for the city council to be a living wage employer.
He said: “We have to build a fairer Preston and help ourselves. If you look back at the Tithebarn development it was all about attracting other people in and I want to step away from the more managerial side of politics, which perhaps we had started to fall into.
“The council gets a lot less funding than it used to so we have to work with other councils, and key partners like the university and Community Gateway to get them to invest and make things happen.”
Keeping the city together is a big focus for Cllr Brown and celebrating its diversity.
“We have to ensure funding and support for things like LGBT Pride, the Community Day, Lancashire Encounter are maintained,” he said, “we must ensure this is a welcoming city and a place for everyone no matter your background and work with all the communities in the city.
“I think we’ve done this well and we must keep doing it.”
Asked about the victories in College and Garrison ward during the local elections, Cllr Brown was full of praise for the two candidates.
Read more: Ward-by-ward breakdown of Preston council election results
He said: “When you have two candidates like Freddie (Bailey) and Anna (Hindle) it makes a huge difference.
“They really put a shift in, five and six hour days, out there knocking doors and talking to people.
“Usually Fulwood you would think of as Conservative but people there are feeling the pinch. It might be more affluent but people are concerned about tuition fees, they are in jobs where they haven’t seen pay rises, and in many cases are concerned about job security.
“I think we’re in good shape going into the 2019 election and it’s good to have some new councillors coming through.”
Cllr Brown said his cabinet would be confirmed in the coming days but did confirm councillor Peter Moss would be his deputy leader.
Real ale or lager? I should say real ale but I do drink a nice lager
Favourite sandwich filling? Cheese and onion
Football team supported? I’m not a huge football fan, but PNE, I’m more of a cricket man and support Lancashire.
Where you went to school? Leyland St Marys
Your perfect Preston day would be…? A day like this (Saturday 5 May) when it’s really sunny, having a nice coffee and reading a book near the Flag Market.
What do you think about Labour’s choice for leader? Let us know your views in the comments below