When Conservatives voted for a new Tory group leader at their annual meeting last week they were also deciding who will next take the helm of Norfolk County Council.

And their choice of Kay Mason Billig, rather than Graham Plant, represents something of a power shift among the Tory group.

Mr Plant was favoured by fellow Yarmouth councillors, including borough council leader Carl Smith and Penny Carpenter.

Eastern Daily Press: Graham PlantGraham Plant (Image: Jamie Honeywood Archant Norwich Norfolk)

But Mrs Mason Billig was supported by Andrew Jamieson, the council's cabinet member for finance and Bill Borrett, cabinet member for adult social care.

Her unseating of Mr Plant surprised many observers.

And with the Conservatives comfortably in control at County Hall, she is now set to become leader when the full council votes on May 9.

Mrs Mason Billig is relatively new to County Hall, having been elected as councillor for Loddon in 2021.

She has not held any cabinet posts at the county council, but has political experience from elsewhere, currently serving as deputy leader and portfolio holder for governance and efficiency at South Norfolk Council.

She has been a South Norfolk councillor since 2015, initially representing Gillingham, and, more recently, Loddon and Chedgrave.

But her political career stretches back further. She stood for the Conservatives against Labour's Ian Gibson in Norwich North during the 2001 general election, although the 15,761 votes she garnered were not enough to unseat the sitting MP.

Eastern Daily Press: Kay Mason Billig (right) went up against Ian Gibson in the 2001 Norwich North general electionKay Mason Billig (right) went up against Ian Gibson in the 2001 Norwich North general election (Image: Newsquest)

It is perhaps noteworthy that Mrs Mason Billig has already brought up the issue of Norfolk's devolution deal, saying she wants more talks with the government over it.

Current council leader Andrew Proctor, who is taking a leave of absence due to ill health, has spent months negotiating with the government over a County Deal.

But the deal on the table has been criticised by some within his own Tory group and other Conservative leaders, including South Norfolk's John Fuller.

She will now play a key role in determining whether that deal goes forward or whether, as has happened in Cornwall, it gets rejected.