Suffolk: Council leaders enter leadership battle
PUBLISHED: 09:00 03 April 2014 | UPDATED: 09:29 03 April 2014
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Conservative council leaders in two districts have written to county councillors in their area urging them to support Mark Bee in his fight to remain in charge at Endeavour House.
Mr Bee is being challenged for the leadership of the Conservative group by fellow cabinet member Colin Noble – whom he beat decisively in the leadership election for the group in 2011.
Other council leaders have expressed disappointment at the leadership battle that has engulfed their Conservative colleagues just weeks before they are due to fight vital European elections.
Waveney Council leader Colin Law and his Suffolk Coastal colleague Ray Herring have sent e-mails to all Conservative county councillors in their districts.
Mr Law says: “I would ask you to think very carefully when it comes to placing your vote. Mark has brought a stabilising influence to the council since he took over the leadership in 2009, at difficult times like all authorities are facing it is important to be united behind the leader.
“To put all the hard work which is being done in jeopardy would be a retrograde step and would be totally divisive.
“Please support Mark at the group AGM and not hand the opposition the opportunity to ridicule and point a finger at a group in turmoil.”
Mr Herring says: “No doubt the Labour Party and UKIP are finding the current situation particularly encouraging as we approach the Euro Elections in a few weeks time and the District Council and General Elections just around the corner in 2015.”
Their letters were backed up by the leader of the opposition Conservative group on Ipswich Council Liz Harsant.
She said: “I find the whole situation unbelievable. Mark is doing a fantastic job at the county and is admired by the business community and everyone who deals with the council. I hope he wins decisively to stop this kind of thing once and for all.”
Babergh council leader Jennie Jenkins said she would not be writing to her members – however she had rung them to say this was the wrong time for a contest.
“The timing of this is very bad for the party – especially for us in South Suffolk who are still going to have to go through the process of selecting an MP after the European elections.
“I cannot see why it is necessary to have this contest now.”
Mr Noble is a member of Forest Heath council, whose leader James Waters is also a county councillor.
He said: “We see things a bit differently on this side of the county. The important thing from our point of view is that there are two excellent candidates and whoever wins, I’m sure the group will come together as a united party in the future.”