New South Tyneside Council leader promises 'cultural shift' after rocky times at town hall

The new top boss in South Tyneside has promised a ‘cultural shift’ in the working of the borough.

South Tyneside Council Leader Cllr Tracey Dixon
South Tyneside Council Leader Cllr Tracey Dixon

And the former town hall supremo’s replacement has now revealed plans to leave her own stamp on the local authority, without trampling on the achievements of her predecessor.

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“It’s going to be baby steps,” said Cllr Dixon. “We can’t change things at pace [at the moment].

South Tyneside Council Leader Cllr Tracey Dixon

“There’s things that we need to look at, we’ve got to do a little bit of a cultural shift.

“But what’s really important for me, as a new leader, is the trust of the residents of South Tyneside.

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“They’ve got to be able to look at us and they’ve got to be able to look at me as a new leader and be able to trust us.”

Cllr Dixon had been in the number two job at South Tyneside Council for about 18 months when her former boss decided to jump ship.

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Iain Malcolm was first elected to the local authority in 1988 and had served as leader since 2008, but over the summer 2020 his regime was rocked by allegations he had left council officers feeling ‘fearful, bullied and controlled’.

The new leader, who also became the borough’s first ever female leader of the council, has insisted she will not comment on the circumstances surrounding her predecessor’s departure, which also saw him quit the Labour Party.

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But she has also insisted she plans to be more than to be simply a placeholder steadying the ship until another leader can be chosen.

“I’m in this for the long haul,” she said.

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“Hopefully the [other councillors] will see that I’m a very different person to other people and I’ll get the support to be in this for the long haul.

“What I’m trying to do now is something that would put us in good stead for not just short term, but long term.”

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After stepping into the breach automatically following Iain Malcolm’s resignation, Cllr Dixon expects to be confirmed in her position by a full meeting of the borough council in the 2021 – the first time all South Tyneside councillors will have met since February 2020.

Looking further ahead, the Whitburn and Marsden councillor has rescheduled local elections to prepare for in May 2021 and has already set about trying to forge relationships with the borough’s opposition councillors and MPs – two groups which frequently had the former leader in their sights.

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But for now there are bigger priorities in her in-tray, including the roll out of a COVID vaccine and paying out about £26million to businesses in Government grants.

She said: “I very much had my finger on the pulse with delivering the [council’s COVID response already as deputy leader].

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“This year in particular is challenging, but regardless of [the circumstances], it would have been challenging any way.

“I think the knowledge and expertise that I’ve got with regard to adult social care and health has put me in good stead, but there are other things that we’re doing as a borough.

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“It was never going to be easy to step into the shoes of the previous leader, but I’m up for a challenge, I’m a people person and hopefully that message will get across.”

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