ISSUES that matter to the voters of Swindon, not party political squabbles, will be at the heart of Swindon Council, according to the leaders of the two main political groups.

Council leader Rod Bluh was re-elected as leader of the Conservative group at their annual general meeting on Tuesday. At the same time Councillor Derique Montaut took over at the helm of the Labour group, deposing Coun Kevin Small.

Now Coun Montaut has promised to press for a more harmonious working relationship with the ruling group – in an attempt to focus on the issues key to voters.

He said: “I will be trying to find a new relationship with the Conservative group to make sure we are focusing on the things that matter most rather than making grand statements at full council.

“I think with the general election coming up it’s very tempting to indulge in party politics and for them to bash the Government for everything. What we need to be debating instead is the issue of service delivery. With the cabinet system of governing you can see issues being waved through without appropriate debate, such as with the speed cameras.”

Coun Montaut congratulated his opposite number on his appointment.

He said: “I think Coun Bluh and Coun Foley are a good team and I think this shows the confidence their group has in them. I look forward to working with them in the interests of the people of Swindon.”

Coun Bluh has been dogged by rumours of a leadership challenge throughout the year but was re-elected to his position completely unopposed this week.

He welcomed Coun Montaut’s selection and his sentiments.

He said: “I congratulate Derique on his appointment. I have enjoyed an excellent personal relationship with him over the years.

“I have always found him to be pleasant to talk to and debate with.

“Like Derique I think that the majority of issues are non-party political.

“Differences along party lines do occur and when they do they should be dealt with by raising the level of debate accordingly.”

Coun Bluh said he was pleased to have been re-elected for another year but knew that the next 12 months would bring challenges.

He said: “The main challenge will be to keep the momentum going at a time of real economic difficulty.

“We are very ambitious in what we want to do for the town and we need to make sure we can keep that momentum up.”