New cabinet members leading Suffolk's key services unveiled

Committee chairman Matthew Hicks said members needed more clarity on the highways arrangement to rea

Conservative leader of Suffolk County Council Matthew Hicks has unveiled his new cabinet

Big changes have been unveiled for Suffolk County Council's cabinet following the election, with changes to those overseeing key services in highways, education and health services among others.

Matthew Hicks, who became leader of Suffolk County Council in May 2018, has been selected by the ruling Conservative members to continue as leader following a successful 2021 local election, with incumbent environment cabinet member Richard Rout joining him as deputy leader.

During Thursday afternoon's annual meeting - held at Wherstead Park to enable social distancing - Mr Hicks unveiled his new cabinet line-up and their responsibilities:

  • Matthew Hicks - Leader
  • Richard Rout - Deputy leader, finance and environment
  • Beccy Hopfensperger - Adult care
  • James Reeder - Children's and young people's services
  • Rachel Hood - Education, special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and skills
  • Richard Smith - Economic development, housing, transport strategy, strategic highways and waste
  • Paul West - Ipswich, operational highways and flooding
  • Andrew Reid - Public health, protection, fire service and communities
Richard Rout is the Suffolk County Council cabinet member for environment and public protection

Richard Rout now takes on the deputy leader role with portfolios for finance and environment - Credit: Suffolk County Council

Mr Hicks has left one space open on his cabinet so that he can review the set-up in six months or a year and make any necessary changes.

It marks a big-shake up of roles, headlined by the highways and education briefs effectively being split between two cabinet members each.

On highways, Mr Smith - who quit the cabinet in autumn 2019 over planned council tax rises for 2020 - will cover the transport elements such as bus strategy and rail representation, as well as the strategic elements of highways such as road infrastructure projects. Mr West meanwhile will oversee the operational highways elements such as pothole repairs, street lighting and maintenance aspects.

In the education brief meanwhile, the education and SEND side will be steered by Mrs Hood while Mr Reeder takes on the children's services elements such as fostering and adoption and family hubs.

Suffolk county councillor Richard Smith Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL

Former finance cabinet member Richard Smith returns to the cabinet front bench with the economic development and strategic highways roles - Credit: Suffolk County Council

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Mr Hicks said that having finance and environment with one cabinet member demonstrated that the environment was "at the top of the agenda", and added: "This, for the first time, puts both on an even playing field and reflects the fact we now publish a carbon budget alongside the financial budget.

"The environment will not play second fiddle and now sits as the deputy leader’s responsibility."

He said that splitting highways meant "a new focus will be placed on addressing those issues that frustrate us all and keeping the portfolio for Ipswich means our county town remains at the heart of decision making".

On children's services, he said that splitting the role "highlights the importance of children and young people to this administration".

While the front bench line-up only has a quarter of roles filled by women, Mr Hicks stressed that "all of the women elected on this side of the chamber four years ago in 2017 or before have taken on senior roles".

Suffolk County Council cabinet member for education, Rachel Hood

Councillor Rachel Hood, new Conservative cabinet member for education, skills and special educational needs and disabilities at Suffolk County Council - Credit: Suffolk County Council

Four of those will chair the council's main committees - Jenny Ceresa (development), Jessica Fleming (health scrutiny), Karen Soons (pension fund) and Joanna Spicer (audit), joined by Graham Newman and Michael Ladd chairing the education scrutiny and main scrutiny committees respectively.

The deputy cabinet members are as follows:

  • Stephen Burroughes - Fostering and adoption
  • Steve Wiles - Highways drainage
  • Craig Rivett - Property
  • Melanie Vigo di Gallidoro - Protected landscapes and archaeology
  • Chris Chambers - SEND
  • Alexander Nicoll - Transport strategy

The new Green, Liberal Democrat and Independent opposition group is expected to announce its opposition portfolio spokespeople soon now that the cabinet has been unveiled.