Update: Farmer Bill Borrett set to become Norfolk County Council leader after winning Conservative nod
12:19 22 February 2013
Conservatives at Norfolk County Council have selected Bill Borrett to become their new group chairman today - meaning he is almost certain to become the next council leader on Monday.
Mr Borrett, who represents Elmham and Mattishall, defeated Graham Plant in a vote held by the Tory group at County Hall.
At an extraordinary county council meeting on Monday, Mr Borrett will be recommended to become county council leader.
While all 84 county councillors will be asked to agree to a new leader at Monday’s meeting, because the Conservative group has 59 members, giving it a majority of 35, it would be a remarkable turn of events if Mr Borrett does not get elected as council leader.
A farmer at Hoe, near Dereham, Mr Borrett has been a county councillor since 2009, is also cabinet member for environment and waste, plus a Breckland district councillor.
Mr Borrett has held the role of acting county council leader following Derrick Murphy’s decision to temporarily step down, before he later resigned earlier this month.
The secret ballot started at 10am today to allow the Conservative county councillors to pick whether they wanted Mr Borrett or Mr Plant to be the new chairman.
It had been thought Brian Long, also deputy leader of West Norfolk Council, would also stand, but he did not formally submit his nomination.
He told the EDP: “It was obvious to me as I was making contact with other members I wasn’t going to achieve enough support to make a dent one way or the other. I withdrew but live to fight another day.”
Phil Hardy, Conservative for Thorpe Hamlet, said: “They were two very strong candidates, it was very difficult to choose and Graham has been very gracious in defeat in wishing Bill all the best. Hopefully we can move forward united into the elections in May.”
Today’s election took place after former Norfolk County Council leader Derrick Murphy resigned. He did so last month, to focus on a standards hearing he was facing.
At that hearing he was cleared, by a committee of fellow councillors, of six of seven claims he had breached the council’s code of conduct, but on one count he was found to have committed a breach.
That one count related to him bringing his office into disrepute because he had asked Kevin Vaughan, a political assistant to Mr Murphy’s Conservative group to claim it was so-called twin hatter councillors –county councillors who also serve on West Norfolk Council – not Mr Murphy, who asked him to send an email to the BBC.
The committee imposed three sanctions: A letter of censure will be sent by the committee to Mr Murphy; a report of the breach will be made to a meeting of the full council and Mr Murphy will be required to undergo training in ethics and standards.
Mr Murphy then announced he would not be seeking a return as chairman and then revealed he and his wife Janet, also a county councillor, would not be standing in May’s county council elections.
The leader of the Liberal Democrat Group at Norfolk County Council has announced he will not be standing for election in May.
Mike Brindle, who represents Thetford West on the council and succeeded Paul Morse as Lib Dem leader last year, said “personal grounds” had prompted his decision.