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New leader's education challenge

6 November 07 12:40 GMT

The new leader of Denbighshire Council said education was his priority after he was elected unanimously.

Hugh Evans, 46, said he would take over the education portfolio himself, and would reduce the number of councillors in his cabinet to save money.

Mr Evans replaces Rhiannon Hughes, who was ousted as leader following a no confidence vote after damning reports into education services in the county.

He said implementing the education action plan would be "challenging".

Mr Evans, an independent, was the only candidate nominated and was backed by the council's five main political groups.

He said he was "delighted" to be voted leader, adding: "I firmly believe, that by working together, we really can make a difference in Denbighshire and build on the good work that is already going on.

"Our main priority is the implementation of the Estyn action plan and modernising education in Denbighshire, which will be challenging.

"But the council has given its commitment to raising education standards in the county and working with schools to offer a first class education to our children and young people."

Mr Evans said other issues included affordable housing, the local development plan and waste management.

"By working together as one, improved communication and co-operation, we can provide better services for the residents of Denbighshire and really make a difference."

"Unity"

Installing a new cabinet - which could include members of the old cabinet - will be one of his first duties.

Denbighshire's standards of education were criticised by school inspectors Estyn and a seperate consultative body, and Ms Hughes and her cabinet were removed from office following a council vote on 22 October.

In a statement last week councillors said the decision to back Mr Evans as the sole nominee represented an "unprecedented show of unity by leaders from all five political groups".

Mr Evans, from Llanelidan, was elected to represent the Llanfair DC/Gwyddelwern ward in 2004.

The leader of the independent group, he has also been vice-chair of the lifelong learning committee and chair of the joint advisory committee for the Clwydian Range Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

At a crisis meeting earlier this month, the council accepted "radical change" was needed to improve education in the county, and said it would "rigorously implement" the Estyn action plan.

A draft report was submitted to the assembly on Monday outlining how the council intends to improve school standards.

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