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Argyll and Bute Council was set to choose a new leader at its full Skype meeting yesterday (Thursday, September 24) after Councillor Aileen Morton stepped down from the role.
Councillor Morton, of the Helensburgh Central ward, was leader of the authority since May 2017, having been elected five years earlier.
Announcing her decision, which she said was taken ‘after much thought’, Councillor Morton described Argyll and Bute as ‘a fantastic area’ and added that it ‘deserves a successful future’.
She said: ‘I took on the role of leader to put in place opportunities for success to happen. With millions of pounds of national investment secured, stronger relationships developed with key decision-makers, and the council’s progress as an effective organisation recognised, it’s the ideal time now for someone else to take the council forward.
‘Like all local authorities, we face substantial challenges due to reduced funding but overall Argyll and Bute Council is in a really good place. In the past three and a half years we’ve made very considerable progress.
‘We’ve seen the council through a positive Best Value audit which highlighted significantly improved, constructive relationships across the chamber and with our officers, and also recognised the council’s sound approach to financial planning and budgeting.
‘We have strengthened relationships with both the Scottish and UK governments through proactive and positive engagement from the start of my term as leader, with our cross-party Argyll and Bute Parliamentary Forum bringing together all the region’s elected representatives.
‘We have developed and agreed priorities which have our communities at their heart and which are designed to help Argyll and Bute thrive.
‘Our drive and determination to secure economic success for Argyll and Bute through growing the population has been relentless. We’ve taken this issue to national government – identifying trends and leading on work relating to west coast and rural depopulation while continuing to press Argyll and Bute’s case with ministers.
‘Having already seen funding of at least £50 million secured through our Rural Growth Deal I expect to see this take major steps forward later this year following continued engagement with ministers in both governments.
‘As we developed our Growth Deal we asked our communities what could make the biggest transformational change to the area and their top priority was digital and transport connectivity. While there are still challenges to be addressed our broadband and mobile provision is now much improved and following sustained lobbying last month saw acceptance by the Scottish Government that a permanent solution for the A83 Rest and Be Thankful needs to be delivered.
‘We have achieved much over the past few years and there is so much potential for further success. The next leader of this council can build on that and will be starting from a very strong position, supported by a fantastic workforce who know, as I do, that Argyll and Bute is a great place to live and work.
‘It’s been my privilege to lead this council for the past few years and to serve the people of Argyll and Bute. I will continue to do so, working with my successor. My sincere thanks go to all who have supported me over the years.’
The council’s depute provost, Councillor Roddy McCuish, paid tribute to Councillor Morton’s achievements as leader.
He said: ‘Aileen took on the role of leader to get a job done for Argyll and Bute, and she’s done that.
‘In brief, she’s taken Argyll and Bute’s cause to key decision-makers to secure transformational investment for the area; and she’s progressed collaboration within the council to use shared priorities to deliver success.
‘On behalf of everyone who will benefit from the progress made, I would like to thank Aileen for her drive, focus and effective leadership of Argyll and Bute Council.’