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Political tide turns in north Norfolk as vote of no confidence is carried against leadership

PUBLISHED: 21:10 21 November 2018 | UPDATED: 14:50 22 November 2018

Former North Norfolk District Council leader John Lee (left) and new leader Sarah Butikofer (right) Picture: ARCHANT LIBRARY

Former North Norfolk District Council leader John Lee (left) and new leader Sarah Butikofer (right) Picture: ARCHANT LIBRARY

Archant

The political tide has turned on the north Norfolk coast, with the district council now Liberal Democrat led.

John Lee, former leader of North Norfolk District Council. Photo: Denise BradleyJohn Lee, former leader of North Norfolk District Council. Photo: Denise Bradley

In the 2015 local election, the Conservative party held 33 of North Norfolk District Council’s 48 seats.

Three years on and the council has an equal number of Liberal Democrat and Conservative councillors and a new leader - Liberal Democrat Sarah Butikofer.

It came following a swathe of resignations from the party in the past 22 months and a vote of no confidence in the leader John Lee and the Conservative administration.

The change came after a motion of no confidence, which Mrs Butikofer tabled herself, was passed with 26 votes in favour, just one more than the necessary 25 required.

Sarah Butikofer, the new leader of North Norfolk District Council. Photo: Liberal DemocratsSarah Butikofer, the new leader of North Norfolk District Council. Photo: Liberal Democrats

It was held at a meeting of North Norfolk’s full council on Wednesday night.

Following the meeting Mr Lee said: “I am disappointed, of course I am. I tried my very best as leader of the council which is all you can ever do - that is what I have told both my children and my grandchildren.

“I wish the very best of luck to Sarah in the post - she is going to need it.”

Mrs Butikofer was voted into the post by 22 votes to 17, with seven abstentions.

She said: “It is very unfortunate that it has come to this, however, for me it is always been about members working together for the good of north Norfolk cross-party.

“I will make offers of cabinet posts to members of all parties and I hope they do not pass them up and we can all move forward.”

In tabling the motion, she said it had stemmed from the decision of five Conservative cabinet members to go against full council recommendations to commission an independent review into whether the Egmere Business Park proposals were financially viable.

After the meeting, Conservative councillor Richard Price, one of the key supporters of the Egmere project, said: “This is a temporary measure. The Conservative voters who overwhelmingly voted for the party in 2015 are still out there, and they will have their say again come May.”

John Rest, leader of the Independent group on the council, said: “As a former member of the Conservative group, I feel sad that it has been necessary for my colleagues to bring this motion of no confidence in order to restore democracy to this council.

“I firmly believe that every member’s voice should be heard and I hope by this action tonight, a more democratic way of working will be established in the final months of this term.”

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