A NEWSPAPER reporter has pledged to set a fresh tone at a local authority after becoming Britain’s youngest council leader at the age of just 24.

Conservative councillor Keane Duncan, who represents Norton on North Yorkshire County Council, will take the helm at Ryedale District Council as part of a partnership with Independent group Ryedale First.

At elections earlier this month, the Conservatives won 12 seats on the 30-seat authority, Ryedale First won six, Liberal five, Independent five and Liberal Democrats two.

The appointment comes two years after six senior members of the council, including the leader Councillor Linda Cowling, resigned from the Conservative group after threats of suspension from the constituency party association.

The Local Government Association believes Cllr Duncan is the country’s youngest council leader.

As the council operates a committee system rather than a cabinet, with most key decisions steered by a policy and resources committee, it has been able to continue for the past two years without a leader.

While the authority is continuing to face the effects of austerity, Cllr Duncan admitted he had not even taken his GCSEs when the Government launched the controversial measures.

He said while councillors traditionally served for many years before becoming a council’s leader, his professional experience as a journalist and work on Ryedale’s policy committee would serve as a good background to taking the leader’s role.

He added: “I am very keen to have the advice and guidance of all councillors. I am very keen there is a new tone at Ryedale District Council as the past four years have not been easy for the authority. It really is time to look forward to the future. I am keen to shake things up and make sure we do business in a much more open, transparent and collaborative manner.

“I don’t see myself as a young councillor. I am not expecting any kind of favours or different treatment. It’s important we get a cross section of different people in politics. It’s important councils do not become the preserve of one particular sub-section of people.”

Cllr Duncan, who was first elected to the authority four years ago, said his appointment had come as the council faced major decisions over issues such as the future site of Malton livestock market, while action was needed to boost recycling rates and street cleaning.