A NEW deputy leader of Wrexham Council has been appointed despite Labour councillors abstaining amid claims of his failure to cooperate with opponents.

Cllr David A Bithell, the authority’s lead member for environment, was appointed to the post at a meeting held earlier this week.

It followed Conservative Hugh Jones stepping down from the role after two-and-a-half years to honour an agreement between the ruling coalition, which includes the Tories and two independent groups.

Speaking at Wednesday’s meeting, Labour leader Dana Davies said her party would refuse to vote either for or against Cllr Bithell’s nomination as he was ‘not known’ to work with opposition groups.

However, she offered an olive branch by encouraging the Johnstown representative to collaborate with them more closely.

Cllr Davies said: “The Labour group will be abstaining on this vote today and I’d like to explain why.

“With every vote there’s opportunities and with that the Labour group would like to extend an invitation to the deputy leader.

“Speaking with councillors past and present, Cllr Bithell’s not known for working with opposition groups and I’m sure he’ll freely admit that himself.

“But times have changed, this council’s changing, and we now have a one council approach and for this to succeed the council leadership must fully embrace this new way of working.

“We therefore respectively extend an invitation to the new deputy leader to consult and work with Labour in delivering better outcomes for the people of Wrexham.”

Despite the abstentions, Cllr Bithell’s nomination was approved by the majority of the county’s 52 councillors.

He is now expected to serve as deputy until the next local government elections.

Speaking after the meeting, he said: “I am looking forward to the new role and the challenges facing local government in what is a difficult period both locally and nationally.

“I will continue to work in the best interests for the council and local people and will work with the leader to get the best settlement for Wrexham.”

During the meeting, tributes were also paid to the work of Cllr Jones, who will keep his role as lead member for people on the executive board.

Council leader Mark Pritchard said: “I have worked with many a councillor for a long time and I would say the commitment that comes from Cllr Hugh Jones is fantastic.

“Cllr Jones is a little older than me, but with the energy he shows and commitment, he’s non-stop.

“On a serious note, he’s been a committed politician and he does things fairly.

“We haven’t always agreed, and I wouldn’t expect that to happen, but he has always made the right decision for the better of Wrexham.”