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Pembrokeshire County Council bids farewell to long-serving leader

Council leader Cllr David Simpson chaired his first public remote cabinet on May 18

PEMBROKESHIRE County Council leader of seven years David Simpson, who officially stepped down today, has been praised for leading the county with “skill, dignity and openness”.

Cllr Simpson, leader since May 2017, recently announced he would not seek re-election as Leader of the Council at the Annual General Meeting, held today, May 10.

Following a two-way battle for the top job Cllr Jon Harvey narrowly beat Cllr Di Clements to become the new leader.

Lampeter Velfrey councillor Cllr Simpson became leader in 2017, after leaving the-then ruling IPPG group after losing confidence in the way cabinet was being run by Cllr Jamie Adams, the leader at the time.

Speaking at today’s May 10 annual meeting of the council, Cllr Simpson said: “Being leader of Pembrokeshire County Council has been the honour of a lifetime; over seven years I’ve been lucky to have so many people committed to making Pembrokeshire a better place to work and live.

“I’ve come to accept that being leader means you have to make decisions that are not always popular. I’ve always tried to make decisions that are right for the long term not short-term headlines.”

Cllr Simpson said the Pandemic was “without doubt the biggest challenge faced by this authority and Pembrokeshire”.

“We built a 120-bed hospital in just three weeks and there’s now a permanent memorial [at County Hall] for those who sadly lost their lives to Covid and those who still suffer today, and those who went over and above to keep us safe. I’m so proud this memorial will stand at County Hall for those who did so much.”

He added: “We do not always see eye-to-eye but that is the way of politics; I do believe everyone does the best for the people of Pembrokeshire; I encourage everyone to get around the table and work together. We’re a small county but we punch well above our weight.

“The biggest thank you is to my wife and family, this job takes up such a large part of your life; in this era you’re never really off duty. Now it’s time to go to the back benches, thank you very much for your support.”

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Councillor Pat Davies described Cllr Simpson as “hands-on, honourable, loyal and inclusive,” adding: “You led us through the Pandemic, you kept us safe.”

Deputy Leader Cllr Paul Miller said: “It was a privilege to serve under David.

“We, as an administration, have been able to achieve what we’ve achieved in no small part because of what David Simpson achieved, it’s a testament to David Simpson’s skill that the last seven years have been the success that they have.

“David Simpson has been dedicated to his role, and there’s no greater testament to that than working through the pandemic; he had been in the office 8-8 every single day of that pandemic to ensure the county could run.”

New leader Cllr Jon Harvey said of Cllr Simpson: “The council is a much-changed organisation under David’s outstanding leadership, and for the better I may add.

“I’m sure that when David took on the role of leader he could not have imagined we would have been faced with a global pandemic, war in Ukraine and military conflict in Palestine, let along significant cuts in public funding.

“But throughout he has led the authority with skill, dignity and openness. Thank you for all that you have done and your outstanding service and unwavering dedication to the role.

“Have a rest now David and enjoy some well-earned time with your family; on your narrow boat and fishing in Scotland.”