A POPULAR veteran councillor has been voted in as leader of Copeland’s Labour Group over the weekend.

Mike McVeigh, who was selected in a secret ballot on Sunday, will meet with the borough’s Independent elected mayor Mike Starkie as negotiations continue to form a new administration.

Mayor Starkie has already agreed to offer Labour two seats at the top table in proportion to the votes in the local election.

He is due to meet with the new Labour leader today when it is widely expected coun McVeigh will be offered a seat on the executive.

The well-liked councillor received more than 1,000 votes and has consistently scored highly in previous years.

Reacting to news of his appointment, McVeigh said: “I have been a councillor for 20 plus years and felt it was time to step up to the plate and endeavour to lead our group through challenging times nationally, impacting locally with the devastating cuts that we have had from the Government.

“I also want to work with the mayor and the executive colleagues to try to do our best for the borough and to take it forward, (helping to develop) opportunities in the nuclear industry.”

Coun McVeigh, who describes himself as a “very young 75”, has been an Egremont town councillor for 20 years and serves as chairman of the borough council’s planning panel.

He is a governor at Saint Bridget’s Primary School in Egremont and vice chairman of the Whitehaven-based Samaritans of West Cumbria.

The long-serving councillor has just recovered from prostate cancer and took the opportunity to thanks the NHS for their support.

Coun McVeigh worked at Sellafield as a scaffolder, safety rep and shop steward but spent the 12 years before his retirement as a steward for Egremont Rangers.

He has been married for 51 years with two children and seven grandchildren.

Mayor Starkie said: “I have known Mike McVeigh my entire life and he has been an exceptionally good councillor for Egremont. I am pleased to hear the news: it’s a good appointment for Labour Group and for Copeland, and I look forward to having a productive working relationship with him.”

Karl Connor, chairman of the Copeland Constituency Labour Party, described McVeigh as “a great bloke” with a lot of experience on the council who was “very popular” not only within the group but the wider party.