New chains of command at Leeds City Council

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There were heartfelt hellos and warm goodbyes as the chains of office were handed over at Leeds Civic Hall earlier tonight (Thursday).

Councillor Judith Chapman was sworn in as the new Lord Mayor of Leeds, taking over from David Congreve and becoming the first Jewish woman in the post.

And it was the night of the two Judiths – as councillor Judith Blake was also officially voted in as the new leader of the council, having been elected as leader of the ruling Labour group just days ago.

A packed public gallery, and a full council chamber dressed for the occasion, heard warm welcome speeches for the new names at the top.

Lib Dem group leader Stewart Golton kicked off the tributes, joking that his diminutive colleague Coun Chapman – a former teacher – would bring a “steely gaze and gavel ridden discipline” to the council chamber. However he also noted that 10 years after Leeds elected its first Muslim Lord Mayor, Mohammed Iqbal, Coun Chapman’s selection showed that “this city cherishes every community” and her appointment would allow a “continued commitment to working together”.

New council leader Coun Blake – who takes over from councillor Keith Wakefield – said her namesake had already demonstrated “resolute determination” in her former role as chair of the council’s children and families scrutiny board.

Councillor Chapman will be joined by her husband of 38 years, Alan, as her consort during her year of office. And she announced her chosen Lord Mayor’s charity will be the Leeds-based Specialist Autism Services.

Tonight’s annual meeting of Leeds City Council started with a standing ovation for Keith Wakefield, who has stepped down as leader of the Labour group after 12 years and having led the council for the last five.

Speaking to the YEP earlier, he said it had been “a huge privilege” to be leader of the city. He will continue to represent Kippax on the council and is also expecting to spend more time on lobbying the Government on more money and regional devolution for Leeds and its West Yorkshire neighbours.

There were also warm tributes to retiring Lord Mayor David Congreve and his consort Janet Harper, who were thanked for their “wonderful job” as ambassadors for and first citizens of Leeds in the past year.