Mark Bee explains why he is stepping down from the leadership of Suffolk County Council

Mark Bee has pushed to ensure better broadband is brought to Suffolk.

Mark Bee has pushed to ensure better broadband is brought to Suffolk.

Suffolk County Council leader Mark Bee last night insisted he wants to continue playing “an active role” in politics in Suffolk, as he announced he would quit his role next month.

Mr Bee will not stand for re-election as group leader at next week’s meeting of Conservatives at Endeavour House and will cease to be council leader at the annual meeting of the authority on May 21.

Mr Bee said he was stepping down as group leader to allow the Conservatives to unite after a difficult year. Last April’s leadership election was tightly-fought between Mr Bee and his challenger Colin Noble.

Cabinet member for finance Jenny Antill is expected to run for the leadership, and Mr Bee said he would be supporting her candidacy by proposing her for the role.

Mr Noble, who was cabinet member for finance before Mrs Antill, is also understood to be considering whether to stand.

Last year’s election produced a very close result. Mr Bee is thought to have won by only three votes among the 39-strong Conservative group. The group is now only 37-strong.

Anne Gower has resigned as county councillor for Haverhill after moving away from the council and Brian Riley was thrown out of the Conservative group after announcing plans to emigrate to America while retaining his seat in Hadleigh.

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Nominations for the leadership of the group effectively close tomorrow and the election will take place at the group annual general meeting on Tuesday.

Mr Bee said it was his intention to remain a member of Suffolk County Council. He is also defending his seat on Waveney District Council in May – he is a former leader of that authority.

He said: “The group will be given the opportunity to elect a new leader at its meeting next week. It will give the group the opportunity to come to come together around a new leader.

“I hope that will be Jenny Antill and I am ready to propose her for that role. I hope to continue to play an active role in the political life of the county.”

Mr Bee is Conservative agent in the marginal Waveney seat which Peter Aldous is defending in the General Election, and he said much of his time over the next few weeks would be devoted to his work there.

He said: “I have served 11 years as leader, first at Waveney and then Suffolk County Council. I think we have achieved much.”

He is particularly proud of the work the council has spearheaded to get broadband installed in rural areas across the region and its work in promoting economic regeneration across the county.

Mrs Antill said she was still considering her position, but it was likely she would stand on Tuesday.

She said: “I was very, very sorry to hear that Mark feels it is necessary to stand aside. He has given me the opportunity to serve in the cabinet and I am very grateful for the support he has given me.

“He has done a very good job with the county council and has worked incredibly hard for the last four years. I almost certainly will stand but he will be a very hard act to follow whatever happens on Tuesday.”