Outgoing leader has eyes on Norfolk police commissioner’s job
Conservative councillor Simon Woodbridge has paved the way to try to become Norfolk's first police commissioner after stepping down as leader of Broadland District Council.
Mr Woodbridge, who has led the authority for the last decade, stood down at a meeting of the Conservative group on Saturday, hours after leading the Tories to an as-you-were victory in the local elections.
The party then elected his deputy Andrew Proctor as the new group leader.
Mr Woodbridge has been given the new role of 'member champion' for crime reduction and community safety in the district and he admitted that he was standing down to pursue his interest in becoming the county's first police commissioner, should the coalition government press ahead with plans to create the new posts and hold elections for them next May.
His departure and the selection of a new Labour leader at Norwich City Council, coupled with last week's shock result for the Conservatives in North Norfolk and a new leader at Great Yarmouth Borough Council means that the there are now new leaders at four district authorities.
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With a degree in criminology and with six years experience as a member of the Norfolk Probation Board , Mr Woodbridge, 46, could be well-placed for the police commissioner's job.
Broadland has one of the lowest crime rates in the country, and as leader Mr Woodbridge set up the pioneering Stairway project, which aimed to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour by getting public bodies to work more effectively together.
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But he could face competition from other Tories, while across the political divide, there are also rumours that former Norwich City Council leader Steve Morphew, may also make a run for the job.
As leader he also led the way to try and cut housing waiting lists, and encourage more sustainable developments in the district including backing the Rackheath ecotown.
He said: 'It has been an absolutely fantastic experience being leader and the knowledge and experience of the public sector has been really useful. I just think it might be the right time to stand down and look at other opportunities. It's certainly not a body in the carpet situation, the group were really supportive of my ambitions.
'I find the police commissioner's role very interesting indeed and it's something I will be considering. It's a new role and I think I could really make a difference.'
Mr Proctor, 63, who is also a county councillor and has been a cabinet member since 2001, paid tribute to the work of his predecessor, and said he planned to keep things moving forward.
'Simon has been an outstanding leader of Broadland for 10 years, he has been fair, forthright and honest in what he has done,' Mr Proctor said. 'The work he has done has brought national and international recognition. If he applies those same qualities, I am sure he will be an excellent police commissioner.
'We have got an excellent record of low cost, high quality services, and we want to keep our services strong safe, secure and financially stable,' Mr Proctor added. 'What we want to do is get more jobs, inward investment, and business opportunities. But clearly we have got to have the infrastructure we want to make sure we meet the needs of Broadland residents.'
Councillors are expected to formally approve Mr Proctor as the council's new leader at a meeting on May 19.