Councillor resigns after new Labour group leader is elected for district

Former Waveney Group Leader Sonia Barker. Picture: Neil Coleby

Former Waveney Group Leader Sonia Barker. Picture: Neil Coleby - Credit: Archant

A new leader has been appointed to the opposition Labour group on Waveney District Council.

New Waveney Labour Group leader Peter Byatt. PHOTO: Nick Butcher

New Waveney Labour Group leader Peter Byatt. PHOTO: Nick Butcher - Credit: Nick Butcher

Peter Byatt, who is the ward member for Kirkley, was elected at a Waveney Labour group meeting on Sunday and takes up the role with immediate effect.

He was first elected to the council in 2010, representing the Pakefield ward, before taking up his current seat following a by-election in 2017.

Mr Byatt replaces former leader Sonia Barker, who has decided to step down from the council and has resigned her seat as a ward member for Pakefield.

Having served Waveney for seven years, Mrs Barker said it had been a 'very, very hard decision' which was taken at the end of a 'very difficult weekend.'

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Mark Bee, leader of Waveney District Council, welcomed Mr Byatt to the role and also paid tribute to Mrs Barker.

He said: 'Peter is a well-respected and community-focused councillor and I would like to congratulate him on his appointment and wish him well in his new role.

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'I would also like to offer my best regards to Sonia who worked hard as both a councillor and group leader. I wish her well for the future.'

On Mrs Barker's resignation, Mr Byatt said: 'I thank her for her service, and I wish her well in her future endeavours.'

Mrs Barker resigned on Sunday, admitting she had made the decision 'after a lot of soul searching.'

She said: 'I have represented the Pakefield ward – which I hold close to my heart – both as a Waveney district councillor since 2011, being re-elected in 2015. Since 2014, as leader of the Waveney Labour Group, I have always led by example and have never asked anyone to do a task that I would not undertake myself.

'As leader I had to take some very difficult political decisions, which required strong leadership. I also have led the Waveney Labour Group through one all out local election in 2015, two general elections in 2015 and 2017 and a number of by-elections.

'I was extremely privileged and proud to be the first female Labour parliamentary candidate for Waveney in 2017 during a short campaign of four-and-a-half weeks.'

Mrs Barker thanked all the Waveney Labour Group colleagues she had worked with over the years and the Waveney District Council officers who showed 'professionalism and care in every dealing I have had with them' either as an individual councillor or as group leader.

'They are all superb,' she said.

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