In under a week I will be stepping down as leader of the council and handing over to the next leader. It’s fair to say that this year has been both exhausting and exhilarating in equal measure.
However, the opportunity to ensure that the council delivered on some of the many important issues that affect our city was one that I certainly couldn’t turn down.
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But it is worth reflecting that the title sounds a lot bigger than the role. Although the leader acts as a political face of the council and sets political direction, they don’t act like the Mayor of London nor do they have anything like as much power or influence.
It has however been an absolute honour and privilege to have undertaken the role over the last year. Working alongside dedicated officers, councillors and the whole city, the role is very demanding. But the challenge for every leader is to find a way to take as many people and organisations along with them as possible. The leader doesn’t have to lead change – they must make sure that the right changes are responded to, and that the right voices are heard.
Sometimes the role seems totally massive – smothering the leader with competing voices and requiring two horses to be ridden at the same time. At other times, the role is simply to put together ideas, challenges and voices that all point in an obvious direction for change. The best leaders will be able to harness the positivity of those occasions to be able to deflect some of the inevitable criticism when the direction and decisions appear more in conflict with some of the city.
There will never be a leader who pleases everyone all the time. I know I haven’t. But I hope that at very least I have laid out the direction required and the decisions that need to be taken from my viewpoint. Certainly, I have tried to make clear the range of issues under consideration, and so not to drag the city kicking and screaming along with me! However, if you feel that I have, the good news is that my time is almost done, and I wish you all well, and thank you for your patience with me – I’ve tried my best!
Cllr Daniel Yates is the leader of Brighton & Hove City Council and former leader of the Labour Group.