DAVID Baines will be the new leader of St Helens Council after winning a leadership contest.

Labour councillors took a secret ballot at its annual general meeting (AGM) on Tuesday evening, with Cllr Baines securing the most votes.

Cllr Baines fought off competition from West Park councillor Marlene Quinn, cabinet member for adult social care, and John Wiseman, who represents Bold.

Newton councillor Jeanie Bell had initially put herself forward but pulled out of the race earlier in the day.

The victory means Cllr Baines, who represents Windle, is now leader of St Helens Labour group and his position as leader of the council will be cemented later this month.

Cllr Baines told the Local Democracy Reporting Service his appointment signals a “new beginning” for Labour in St Helens, after the party lost four seats in last week’s local elections.

“I am honoured to have been chosen by my colleagues to lead St Helens Labour group,” Cllr Baines said.

“The local elections last week clearly showed that we have a big job ahead of us.

“However, tonight is a new beginning for Labour here in St Helens and while we still have tough decisions to make, and the challenges may remain the same, I believe that with the right approach this can be an exciting time for the borough.

“I will be appointing my cabinet in the coming days and we will be making more announcements in the weeks to come.

“I’m looking forward to getting on with the job.”

Cllr Baines’ appointment as Labour leader comes following months of unrest within the ranks of the group, which have been underpinned by a series of leaks.

It had been widely expected that current leader Derek Long would be challenged at Labour’s AGM following a turbulent 12 months at the helm.

Cllr Long has also been unable to maintain a stable cabinet, with three cabinet resignations in the past six months.

While Cllr Baines has never held a cabinet position, he has served as chairman of the overview and scrutiny commission, an important role within the council’s scrutiny functions.

In February Cllr Baines, who was re-elected last Thursday, failed in a bid to become deputy leader of the Labour group, losing out to Sue Murphy.

The Billinge and Seneley Green councillor was subsequently named deputy leader of the council.

Cllr Baines will be appointing his cabinet in the coming days.

He will be ratified as the new leader of St Helens Council at a meeting of the local authority on May 22.