Colin Noble challenged for leadership of Suffolk Tories by Matthew Hicks
Suffolk County Council leader Colin Noble is facing the fight of his political life after being challenged for the top job by fellow cabinet member Matthew Hicks.
Mr Hicks, who is responsible for safety (including the fire service) and the environment, has been a member of the council for five years – and is seen as a unifying figure both within his party group and the council as a whole.
The county council Conservative group of 52 members will vote in a leadership contest at its annual general meeting on Friday, May 11.
Whoever wins that will expect to be confirmed as the new leader of the council at its annual meeting on May 24.
Mr Hicks has written to all Conservative county councillors with a five-page manifesto outlining why he is challenging Mr Noble, who won the leadership in 2015 after Mark Bee stood down.
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In his letter Mr Hicks explains why he has decided to challenge Mr Noble: “I do this from a desire to unite our group and to run an administration which is inclusive, open and transparent.”
He adds: “The leader’s role is not to dominate but to motivate; and to work collaboratively with the group, and even on occasion with the opposition.”
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He quotes his role in driving through reforms to Suffolk Fire and Rescue service – and to bringing together groups to solve flooding problems in Lowestoft.
Mr Hicks says that if he becomes leader he would appoint current scrutiny committee chair Mary Evans as his deputy.
Mr Noble became leader of the county council in 2015, a year after he challenged Mr Bee for the top job. Although Mr Bee won narrowly in 2014, he felt his authority was undermined and he stood down from the role 12 months later.
Mr Noble said: “Last year I set out a fully detailed manifesto and 52 out of 75 divisions in Suffolk elected a Conservative councillor.”
He said he was now working to put that programme into effect to bring services and prosperity to people living across Suffolk – and he hoped to carry on that work in the future.
Mr Noble still retains considerable support at the county council – led by current council deputy leader Jane Storey – and both sides in the leadership battle are expecting an intensive election campaign among councillors over the next two weeks.