A NEW leader of the Labour group on Cheshire West and Chester Council has been elected.

Members unanimously voted in support of Cllr Louise Gittins taking the driving seat at the first meeting following the borough's council elections on Thursday.

Labour won the most seats but was one short of overall control.

She replaces Cllr Samantha Dixon, who said she had found the role a privilege but "demanding".

Cllr Dixon, who proposed Cllr Gittins as the new leader, said: “I am delighted to hand over the reins of leadership to Cllr Louise Gittins who has served as the Deputy Leader of the council alongside me for the past four years.

"She will be an excellent leader who will represent Cheshire West and Chester residents and deliver on Labour's ambitious plans to build stronger communities in our borough."

She added: "Cheshire West Labour is an amazing team and I'm glad to continue to be part of it. It has been a honour and a privilege to serve as the Leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council for the past four years, but I have found it very demanding serving the whole borough as well as the very busy Chester City Ward. I now intend to return to the back benches to join my colleagues councillors Martyn Delaney and Bob Rudd in giving the very best representation to the residents of the newly formed Chester City and Garden Quarter ward.

"The ward is home to more than 10,000 residents and is the location for some of the finest heritage and cultural assets, not just in our borough, but in the country. Given the exciting developments ahead such as Northgate, I want to give my undivided attention to the ward and the people who live there."

Speaking as the newly elected leader, Cllr Gittins said: "Samantha Dixon has been a fantastic leader of the council since 2015. Her lasting legacy remains the decision to put respect back into the heart of the council and this has been one of the core values that she has driven forward over the last four years.

"Under Sam’s leadership the council has been transformed, winning numerous awards including 'Council of the Year' from the Association of Public Service Excellence in 2018. I am proud that in spite of ongoing government cuts, we have balanced the budget every year and continue to protect the most vulnerable local residents.

"Sam will be a hard act to follow, but I’m up for the challenge. We will continue to be a council that empowers local communities, working together to create services based on local need and social value, not just financial value."

The Group also elected Cllr Karen Shore as their new Deputy Leader.

Cllr Gittins added: "Following a challenging set of election results across the country, in Cheshire West Labour won the most seats and therefore we remain the largest party. We have a four year plan to build stronger communities in this borough and we are open to working together with all elected councillors so that we can continue to get the things done that matter to the residents we have all been elected to represent."

* The Leader of the Conservative group, Cllr Lynn Riley, also announced she would be stepping down from the role. She will be replaced by her deputy, Cllr Margaret Parker.