Leader is picked on toss of a coin

Ilkeston councillor Alex Phillips is now leading the opposition at Erewash Borough Council.
Ilkeston councillor Alex Phillips is now leading the opposition at Erewash Borough Council.

THE NEW opposition leader for Erewash has made regeneration his top priority – after being elected on the toss of a coin.

Ilkeston councillor Alex Phillips, 29, tied in a secret ballot with Cllr Howard Griffiths, who has led the group since the Erewash Borough Council went Conservative in 2003.

After the vote was taken a second time, it was still split with 12 councillors backing Hallam Fields Cllr Phillips and a dozen behind Cllr Griffiths, who represents part of Long Eaton.

Finally the deadlock was broken with a toss of a coin.

After praising Cllr Griffiths’ work over nine years, Cllr Phillips said his group would be working hard to regenerate the borough.

He said the ruling group had only a £10,000 budget and said: “That is abysmal. If you look at what the council has done, there has not been much progress.

“I know there are economic problems but the high street in Bassetlaw is still flourishing. Ours are not.”

Conservative regeneration spokesman Cllr Geoff Smith said he welcomed any support in reviving the borough.

“Any help in our regeneration programme is much appreciated. Any assistance to the residents of Ilkeston and Long Eaton will be much appreciated,” he said.

Labour’s regeneration spokesman will now be Cllr John Frudd, who runs a barber’s shop in Ilkeston.

He said people were concerned about starting shops and firms. He welcomed a businessman’s idea of re-opening the former Woolworth’s store in smaller units with low overheads.

“At the moment, there are pigeons flying in through a hole in the roof and unable to get out,” added Cllr Frudd.

“We have had dead pigeons in the window,”

The Tories have a majority of one on the 51-seat council and Cllr Phillips said: “We take it as a huge challenge. We will not be pushed around.

“But we will not argue for the sake of it. We will argue when there is a clear and costed alternative.”

Conservative council leader Chris Corbett said: “I hope in his new role Cllr Phillips will respect the office of Mayor and conduct himself in a proper manner at council meetings.”

Cllr Phillips, who is currently out of work, has filled a post at the European Parliament, working for a local Euro MP. This involved dealing with legislation covering organ donation and air quality.

He also worked in Westminster for former Erewash Labour MP Liz Blackman.

The new deputy Labour leader is now Cllr James Dawson, 27, a business support officer for Nottinghamshire County Council, who represents Abbotsford ward in Ilkeston.

He said: “It is good we have some young blood in the top ranks of the council group.

“Younger people have always been under-represented in politics. Younger people should have their voices heard and politics should include them, although they often perceive it doesn’t.”

Cllr Phillips’ parents Pam and Frank are also Labour members of the authority.

Retired teacher Cllr Frank Phillips stood down from his post as deputy leader and is now group secretary.

He said: “I am very pleased with the election. I always believed we needed a bit of youth and needed to provide room for youth to grow.

“Alex has a wise head on young shoulders. The group is really behind Alex and will move together in different directions.”

The positions will become official when the council has its annual meeting in May and selects a new Mayor.

The Labour shadow cabinet will be Cllr John Frudd for regeneration, Cllr Jane Wilson for community safety and housing, Cllr Louis Booth for culture and leisure and Cllr Clare Neill for community involvement.