RYEDALE District Council is to meet for the first time since the defection of six councillors changed its political make-up.

The meeting of full council tomorrow (Thursday) will see a new chairman and vice-chairman elected, with current chairman Cllr Bob Gardiner stepping down.

Also on the agenda is the election of a new leader - although the requirement for this is being disputed, as the six Conservative defections mean the party no longer has an overall majority.

Former council leader Linda Cowling, who last month was one of the six who “crossed the floor” to join Cllr Robert Wainwright’s Independent group, said she was proud at what her former party had achieved, but does not regret her decision to leave.

She said: “I believe that RDC has become a successful council - not least being able to achieve the massive savings asked of the council by central government, while still delivering all services to the residents of Ryedale.

“I have enjoyed playing a part in that success and have appreciated the hard work and effort contributed by members and staff of the council.

“All our staff are so notably dedicated to the work they do for the residents of Ryedale.”

After the resignations, the Conservatives were left with 13 councillors, or 43 per cent of members.

The Independent group become the second largest group with eight members, or 27 per cent.

The other three groups - the Liberals, the New Independents and the Liberal Democrats - are unchanged, on four members, three members and two members, respectively.

The Conservative resignations, which happened in early April, saw six councillors with a collective total of 96 years’ council experience quit the group following the suspension of councillors David Cussons, John Raper and Linda Cowling.

As well as Cllrs Cowling, Cussons and Raper, Cllrs John Windress, Janet Frank and Eric Hope all defected.