FIRST minister Mark Drakeford has praised the “remarkable achievements” of his party in Monmouthshire following the election of the council’s first-ever Labour leader this week.

In what was an historic moment for the county, Labour group leader Cllr Mary Ann Brocklesby was elected as the council’s new leader – becoming the first woman to head up the authority.

Previously a Tory stronghold, the election on May 5 saw the Conservatives lose control of the authority, with 18 members elected, while Labour emerged as the largest group, with 22 councillors. Five Independent candidates and one for the Green Party were also elected.

Though no party holds an overall majority in Monmouthshire, Cllr Brocklesby said that her administration will aim to work productively will all parties.

South Wales Argus: New leader Cllr Mary Ann Brocklesby. New leader Cllr Mary Ann Brocklesby.

Speaking to the Argus at an event in Ebbw Vale on Friday, May 20, Mr Drakeford said: “I think it’s a remarkable achievement for a group of people that stood for the Labour party in Monmouth.

“I was in Monmouth during the campaign. We felt that we were doing well, but whether we thought we’d be in a position to take on the whole leadership of the council, I think it’s a real tribute."

The first minister also praised Monmouthshire’s place as the first gender-balanced authority, which was a key ambition of the council’s previous Conservative leader, Richard John.

“It’s a particular achievement for a group of women, often young women, who have come into politics and are so committed to making sure that their part of the world creates the sort of future for young people growing up in Monmouthshire," he said.

“So, to see them succeed in doing that, I think it’s a real important moment and says something very important about the future prospects of this part of Wales.”

Cllr Richard John, leader of the Conservative group, offered his congratulations to Cllr Brocklesby.

“We wish you good luck, congratulations and the achievement of being the first ever female leader of Monmouthshire council is not one to be overlooked,” he said.

Cllr John said the Conservative group would be ‘constructive’ and ‘fair’ in opposition, and that there were areas where the parties could work together.

Cllr Brocklesby, who has now appointed a cabinet of Labour councillors, said the election result was “historic in many ways.”

“As someone who has spent a lifetime fighting for equality, I am enormously proud of the people of Monmouthshire and what they did on May 5,” she added.