Tories pick leader from backbenches

Tories in Norfolk yesterday selected youth as the best means of maintaining power at County Hall after choosing Daniel Cox as their new leader.The 36-year-old soundly saw off the challenge of his rivals backbencher Andrew Pond and cabinet member Tony Williams.

Tories in Norfolk yesterday selected youth as the best means of maintaining power at County Hall after choosing Daniel Cox as their new leader.

The 36-year-old soundly saw off the challenge of his rivals, backbencher Andrew Pond and cabinet member Tony Williams.

Yesterday's leadership contest to succeed Shaun Murphy saw the Wymondham councillor poll 23 votes in a secret ballot, compared to 10 for Mr Pond and eight for Mr Williams.

On Monday, a special meeting of the full council is expected to approve him as leader of the authority.

Last night Mr Cox said he was looking forward to getting started and denied he lacked the political experience to lead the £1bn a year authority.

"I have business experience and have served as a district councillor for the last eight years," he said.

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"I have also been on one of the government's leadership courses where you work with other councils across the country.

After his win, Mr Cox, who is a business manager for supermarket chain Somerfield, after starting his career with the firm as a shelf-filler, immediately thanked the group for its support and pledged to build on the work of Mr Murphy.

"I am delighted and honoured to have been asked to lead the group," he added. "It is exciting to be leading the Conservative group at a time of increasing change in local government. We are faced with the rising expectations of our residents to improve the quality of the services that Norfolk County Council provides, yet we are also under considerable pressure to reduce our costs and ensure we provide value for money.

"Together with my colleagues across the county, I believe that the council is well prepared to deal with these challenges and I am thrilled by the opportunities ahead of us."

While he would quit his Somerfield job, he plans to continue as a south Norfolk district councillor, albeit from the backbenches. He said he had no immediate plans for a cabinet reshuffle and hoped the whole party would unite behind his banner.

"We are a broad group of people who believe in conservatism - that's what brings us together, but you have to appreciate that within that there will be differences of opinion."

Former leader Shaun Murphy backed his successor as the man to build on the administration's achievements.

"I am delighted with the result and am sure that Daniel will continue to pursue the Conservative administration's policies that have been so successful for Norfolk," he said.

"Over the past year, we have worked hard to raise the standard of county council services and I am particularly pleased with the major improvements that have been achieved in children's and adult services, both of which have such a direct impact on Norfolk people's lives.

"I am also very proud of the recent award of a four star overall rating for the council that reflects the success of our wider improvement agenda.

"It has been a real privilege to first be deputy leader and then leader of Norfolk County Council over the past three years and I feel very proud of what we as a Conservative administration have achieved and are delivering for the people of Norfolk."