County councillors need to inspire the next generation through words and deeds.
That was the message from Warwickshire County Council’s new chairman Cllr Peter Gilbert (Con, Bedworth West) who was elected at a ceremony at Warwick’s Old Shire Hall on Monday.
He told fellow councillors to forget about internal squabbles and to concentrate on important matters facing the public.
He said: “Even those who enjoy a good standard of living may still face challenges whether it be education, employment, housing or health - all areas where we as councillors can have influence.
“As members we are sometimes guilty of being focused on the minutiae - internal squabbles, process - while more urgent, more important challenges and issues are pushed from our minds, forgotten, not given the attention they deserve.”
Cllr Gilbert highlighted issues within some Warwickshire schools which he said had failed children.
He added: “I believe we still have much work to do to tackle deprivation and inequality particularly in education where, sadly, this council appears to have less influence in recent years.
"It is important that this new council finds relevance again in that debate.
“As someone who serves as a school governor, it is clear to me that in the county and in this country we have a three or maybe four-tier education system.
"The fact that in this county some children entering senior school fall off the metaphorical educational cliff, many of them never returning to higher, more stable ground.
“I went to one of these schools and many of my school friends did fall off that cliff - I perhaps stumbled myself.
"They were not stupid, they were just kids - they deserved better.
“I am ambitious for our area and for what it can become but if we do not address the problems in education and more, the system will tie the hands of many for their whole life.
“The education clock has ticked by for many and it is ticking by for many more so let’s do all we can to make sure that our time here is productive.
"We must inspire the next generation through words and deeds.
“We all play a part in this, it doesn’t matter where we are from or whether we are new members or old. Our job is here to make a difference. Local government is the shop window of democracy - we must always be open to challenge and debate.”
In proposing Cllr Gilbert as chairman, Cllr Yousef Dahmash (Con, Hillmorton) told councillors: “Pete’s principal passion has always been politics and he’s in it for the right reasons. He firmly believes that politicians should remember at all times why they are elected and by whom.
“I trust Pete to make a difference during his year in the chair and in the years ahead for this council and beyond and for that reason I have no hesitation in formally proposing him as chairman.”