Inverurie and District Councillor Martin Kitts-Hays is set to take over as leader of the Liberal Democrat group on Aberdeenshire Council - providing he is re-elected by voters in the Inverurie and District ward on May 3.
The announcement followed the closing of nominations for the local elections. In a surprise move, Cllr Mike Raeburn who was elected in Inverurie as a Lib Dem in 2007 will be standing as an independent candidate, leaving Cllr Kitts-Hays as the sole candidate for his party in the ward.
In all, eight candidates will contest the Inverurie & District ward, which elects four members. The other candidates are Cllr Richard Cowling (Conservative); Karen MacKenzie (Green); Ron Reid (Independent); Cllr Bryan Stewart (SNP); Ellis Thorpe (Labour) and Hamish Vernal (SNP).
Cllr Kitts-Hays was first elected in 2003 then re-elected in 2007 as one of two Lib Dem Councillors in the four-member Inverurie and District ward. Formerly his group’s deputy leader for two years, he was elected unopposed by his colleagues last May as the Liberal Democrats’ Group Leader designate, after current group leader Anne Robertson announced her decision to stand down from the post following this May’s election.
Although Mrs Robertson is seeking re-election as a Councillor in Turriff, her decision to hand over the reigns of the Lib Dem group means that irrespective as to the overall election result, Aberdeenshire will have a new local authority political leader after May.
A former council officer, Cllr Kitts-Hays has a background in economic development in both the public and private sectors. In addition to his responsibilities as Chair of the Garioch Area Committee for the past 5 years, he has served on the Infrastructure Sevices Committee and Local Review Body as well as representing the Council’s interests on a number of national bodies.
Paying tribute to Mrs Robertson, Cllr Kitts-Hays told the Inverurie Herald that he had spent the past year shadowing her as Group Leader designate, and that he hoped he would be able to bring his own character to bear on the position.
“I am delighted to have been selected to represent Inverurie and District for a further term”, he said. “Inverurie is a vibrant town and while much has been achieved over recent years there is still much to do. Delivery of a new Uryside school, care home, youth café, modern sports facility for Colony Park, completion of the Riverside Park and appropriate community facilities and infrastructure to accompany the growth of the town will be my key priorities over the next five years.
He continued: “I was elected Group Leader designate in May 2011, following the decision of Cllr Robertson not to seek a second term of office. I have been learning the ropes over the past year and am looking forward to the challenges ahead.
“Cllr Robertson has been a tremendously hard working Leader of the Council and will be a hard act to follow.”
In the West Garioch ward, which elects 3 councillors, the candidates are Hazel Al-Kowarri (LD); Allison Grant (SNP); Sheena Lonchay (LD); Patricia Oddie (Con); Richard Openshaw (Green).
In the East Garioch ward, which also elects 3 councillors, the candidates are Amanda Clark (Ind); Nan Cullinane (LD); Martin Ford (Green); Fergie Hood (SNP); Patrick Sleigh (Con) and Ann Thorpe (Labour).