Suffolk County Council leader Mark Bee to quit

Mark Bee and his deputy Lisa Chambers at Endeavour House in Ipswich after they saw off last year's c

Mark Bee and his deputy Lisa Chambers at Endeavour House in Ipswich after they saw off last year's challenge to their leadership. - Credit: Archant

Conservative councillor Mark Bee is to step down as leader of Suffolk County Council after four years in the role.

Mr Bee has been leader of the council since 2011, taking over at the height of the Andrea Hill controversy, but will not seek re-election to the leadership of the Conservatives at Endeavour House at next week’s annual general meeting of the group.

He will remain leader of the county council until the authority’s annual meeting at the end of May.

Mr Bee’s decision to stand down comes a year after he saw off a challenge to his leadership of the Conservative group from former cabinet member for finance Colin Noble.

The result was very close – he was understood to have had a majority of only three among the 39-strong Tory group.

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Since then there was a bust-up with adult care spokesman Dr Alan Murray threatening to quit over confusion between his role and that of health board chair Joanna Spicer, a key ally of Mr Bee.

This is believed to have further eroded Mr Bee’s support within the group – and he told a meeting of Conservative councillors today that he would not be seeking re-election to the top job.

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The annual general meeting of the group takes place next Tuesday, but nominations close on Thursday.

Mr Noble could throw his hat into the ring, while current cabinet member for finance Jenny Antill is also expected to go for the top job.

The election is seen as a distraction during the general and local election campaigns – and it is set to ensure Tory county councillors have a very busy Easter on their telephones – but the party will be hoping that the quick leadership battle avoids opening up old wounds.

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