'Outsider' Julie Dore to lead Labour in Sheffield

NEWLY elected Labour leader Julie Dore insists she is "absolutely ready" to lead Sheffield Council if the electorate back her party next May - despite her relative inexperience in frontline politics.

Labour councillors selected Coun Dore by the narrowest of margins on Tuesday night, making her the first new group leader in 12 years after former chief Jan Wilson died last month.

The mum-of-two has represented Arbourthorne for 10 years and served for two years as chair of a council scrutiny board - but she only entered the shadow cabinet four months ago, as spokeswoman for education.

Despite her low profile she defeated former deputy leaders Bryan Lodge and Harry Harpham and long-standing cabinet member Mick Rooney.

After two rounds of voting she was tied with Coun Lodge on 19 votes but emerged victorious after a re-ballot.

A Labour insider told The Star that councillors felt the Arbourthorne representative offered a fresh approach.

He said: "There was a feeling within the group that Julie had the strongest message about changing the way we operate in order to beat the Lib Dems."

Coun Dore, who went straight into action at a session of full council yesterday afternoon, told The Star her priority would be to oppose the Government's 'regressive' cuts.

The 50-year-old said: "This is a very important time for Sheffield Council. We have a right-wing government imposing cuts at an alarming rate.

"I'm excited but I think it is going to be a difficult period. I'm quite apprehensive. But I'm up for it."

When questioned on her experience she said: "I am absolutely ready to lead Sheffield Council if we win next May.

"My job is to represent real people and I think I can do that and connect with people and their everyday lives."

She said it was a "great honour" to follow in Jan Wilson's footsteps.

"Jan was the reason I became a councillor. She was my mentor and I hope I can make her proud."

Coun Dore grew up on the Wybourn and Arbourthorne estates and attended Hurlfield School - now Springs Academy where she is a governor.

On leaving school she became a quantity surveyor in the construction industry. She then worked for South Yorkshire Housing Association for 23 years until she was made redundant.

She now lives in Gleadless with her husband and two teenage sons.

Coun Dore's new Green and Lib Dem opponents congratulated her on her new position.

Council leader Paul Scriven said: "I would like to congratulate Julie on her election. Unfortunately we haven't had a culture of political parties working together in Sheffield, but I'm hopeful this will change now we have a new Labour group leader."

He said he had written to Coun Dore to propose "a new era in which Labour and the Liberal Democrats can come together in the interests of the city".

Coun Dore said she was prepared to work alongside the Lib Dems where they were happy to meet her party's "values and priorities".

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