'Honoured and excited': New Rugby council leader lays out his initial plans

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The new leader of Rugby Borough Council is targeting “a noticeable and tangible difference in how this administration performs” during Labour’s first year in office.

Councillor Michael Moran (Lab, Admirals & Cawston) said he was “honoured, humbled and excited” having taken the top job this week, winning a vote to oust the Conservatives from power.

Labour holds 15 of the 42 seats at the Town Hall, two fewer than the Tories, but a confidence and supply deal with the Liberal Democrats – a formal but non-binding agreement to vote together on big issues – has prompted a change of the guard.

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Cllr Moran reiterated the mantra of Labour’s pre-election manifesto, which aims to deliver a “better, greener, fairer” Rugby.

Cllr Michael Moran.Cllr Michael Moran.
Cllr Michael Moran.

To achieve that, he wants to ensure there is greater detail within the strategies behind policy decisions with much of the change to be inspired by “two building blocks” – the council’s workforce and its finances.

However, his opening gambit was around avoiding political “squabbling” among a trio of parties that do not command an outright majority.

“I am new to politics, and it may surprise you to believe that I have huge disdain for this kind of squabbling,” he said.

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Referring to the “unedifying spectacle” of the recently televised debate between prime minister Rishi Sunak and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, he noted how "there wasn’t really an exchange of ideas".

“That hit home to me, that to some extent examples are best made at a local level," he said.

“Equally, as many of you have been out on the streets in the past couple of weeks and months, talking to residents and businesses, they really don’t care what happens here in terms of squabbling.

"It is all off putting, so I am not going to spend a moment talking about the previous administration or administrations. It is irrelevant, we need to have a clean slate.

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“Taking on the old adage that a week is a long time in politics, two years is a long time and there is a chance to roll up our sleeves and work collaboratively for the residents.”

He went on to acknowledge that some council staff might find the talk of radical change “terrifying” but stressed there was “categorically not a drive to cut costs, slash jobs or anything like that”,.

“I think we need to align better with the outcomes, so there will be change, working with HR and unions to try to make that alignment," he added.

“If we want to talk about growth and investment in Rugby, we have to start here in the town hall. The council’s greatest asset is its staff, without a doubt.

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"The idea of empowering individuals to enjoy their jobs more, to address issues of recruitment, retention and morale, those are the positive things we are looking to do from day one.”

He described “precarious finance circumstances” and “a reliance on business rates” to plug a “multi-million pound in-year deficit”.

“To deal with that, hopefully literally on day one, the idea is to bring in outside expertise,” said Cllr Moran, stressing that was no slight on the finance team currently in place.

“But such is the nature of the challenges we face, we want to bring in the best ideas from around the country and look at different ways of doing things that might give us a better chance to deliver financially for all of our ambitions.”

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The much-discussed regeneration of Rugby town centre came next, a matter on which businesses have united to express their frustration over recently.

“Property is more than bricks and mortar,” he added.

“In Rugby we are lucky to have a town with a cultural heart and as a father of post-teenage children, it is that idea that we want a sense of pride over where we come from. Figuratively and visually, the town centre becomes that issue.

“I am under no illusions about it being a walk in the park to deliver the change that is needed in Rugby, the number of businesses that are unhappy is clearly unprecedented.

“We will get into the details at another time but I think we are really positive about telling businesses that we are listening to them, activating change to bricks and mortar, an idea for a Love Rugby concept to energise the borough – that will be really important.”

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Expressing frustration over “a lack of detail in strategic plans (and) a lack of options and appraisals”, he vowed: “It is clearly now incumbent on me to practice what I preach and put that forward.”

Cllr Moran also raised the prospect of “being a bit more bullish” with developers.

“Whether that is protecting a hedgerow or trying to get that bit more out of a section 106 package (money developers pay towards infrastructure to support new housing), it could be a culture where we do ask for more and where we achieve more.”

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