Suffolk County Council: New Strategic Direction under new leader - Plan Bee

SUFFOLK County Council is today preparing to head in a new direction after outsider Mark Bee was voted leader in what was seen as an internal revolution.

Waveney District Council leader Mr Bee won the leadership of the Conservative group at the county on the first ballot.

The exact results of the election are not published, but it is understood that Mr Bee won the support of more than 30 of the 54 Conservative councillors.

That included five of the nine members of the current cabinet.

Mr Bee’s election came after members of the Conservative group at all levels spoke of the need to see a change in emphasis for the county council.

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And in attracting the majority of the cabinet, Mr Bee showed that this feeling extended to all levels of the political hierarchy at Endeavour House – this was a frontbench, rather than a backbench, rebellion against the policies of the New Strategic Direction and divestment of services.

Mr Bee did not waste any time in announcing his intention to change the way the council operates.

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As well as removing the immediate threat from school crossing patrols, he also made it clear he would try to protect other endangered services.

He said: “First and foremost, it is important to listen to the people of Suffolk and to the concerns they are expressing.

“I am clear that we must continue to seek out alternative ways of funding our services. That won’t change – the financial climate demands this.

“But in doing so, I will ensure that we take great care that those alternative ways are actually in place before we take away the funding. In the case of school crossing patrols, I can assure residents in the areas where the patrols are most needed, they will not now be stopped, unless or until a suitable alternative arrangement has been found.

“Across the board, with services such as libraries, household waste recycling centres, school and college transport, we need to take time to think through the consequences, consider the implications, listen to the concerns and be clear what the end result will be, before we make the final decisions.”

The election result emerged at 12noon yesterday – the meeting of the Conservative group had begun two hours earlier.

It was a private meeting, but councillors said the three candidates, Mr Bee, and cabinet members Colin Noble and Guy McGregor each gave very good presentations.

Former council chairman Joanna Spicer, a key supporter of Mr Bee, said: “It was a very good meeting, but members felt Mark would bring the kind of change that is needed at the county.”

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