Norfolk County Council leader Daniel Cox quits

Norfolk County Council Leader Daniel Cox today announced that he is quitting politics to take up voluntary work in India.

In a surprise move, Mr Cox told members of his cabinet of his plans at a meeting this morning, which means the race now begins to find a new Conservative group leader ahead of a full council meeting on October 11, when the authority officially confirms who gets the top job.

The decision means that there will be a by-election in his Humbleyard division, and also in the South Norfolk ward of Rustens, where Mr Cox is a district councillor.

But his departure comes as the authority looks set to embark on a massive and painful cuts programme to breach a �155m funding gap in the next three years.

As a moderate 'Cameronian' style Conservative, Mr Cox often had to hold the line against more hawkish Tories, and even survived a coup attempt when he was de-selected from his Wymondham division before last year's county council elections - forcing him to find a new seat in Humbleyeard.

All eyes will now be on whether his decision will pave the way for a shift to the right and a more aggressive approach towards cuts.

Mr Cox said: 'I accept that the timing of my resignation is not of the best, as the council works hard to balance its budget in the face of anticipated cuts in its government grant of some 25pc or more and significant cost pressures on its services, but having applied to VSO some time ago, it so happens that a volunteer vacancy match has now been found for both me and my wife Katie in Delhi starting in November.

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'As volunteer service abroad is something we both feel passionate about, this is a opportunity we feel we cannot and should not miss now, while our personal family circumstances allow.

'I am announcing my intentions today, because I think it crucial that the forthcoming budget consultations and medium term financial strategy for the council is led and owned by the new council leader and their cabinet for maximum legitimacy.

'I would like to thank and pay tribute to my cabinet colleagues for their continued hard work and support and to the council's officers.'

The race will now be on to find a successor to the outgoing leader, who took on the job when aged 37 in April 2007, making him one of the youngest council leaders in the country.

Names believed to be in the mix include deputy leader Derrick Murphy and fellow cabinet members Bill Borrett, Ann Steward, Ian Mackie and Alison Thomas.

Meanwhile Breckland council William Nunn, who previously challenge Mr Cox for the leadership may also throw his hat in the ring, and former West Norfolk council leader John Dobson could well be in the frame, or in contention for a cabinet role.

Speaking after the announcement, deputy leader Derrick Murphy said on behalf of the cabinet: 'Daniel has led cabinet with real enthusiasm and vigour.

'The cabinet wish Daniel and his wife Katie all the best on their new adventure. Whilst his departure is sudden, cabinet remain very much focused on the challenges that lie ahead.'