Waveney leader confirms his interest in Suffolk role

Waveney District Council leader Mark Bee has told his fellow Conservatives that he intends to stand in the race to become the next leader of Suffolk County Council.

Jeremy Pembroke retired from the position on Friday and Beccles councillor Mr Bee and Row Heath's Colin Noble have become the first to put their names forward ahead of a rare contested election for Conservative leadership.

Mr Noble, portfolio holder for adult and community services, had already stated his interest in the position, but after some speculation Mr Bee has now confirmed he will also stand.

In an email to fellow members of the Conservative Group, Mr Bee paid tribute to Mr Pembroke praising his hard work, commitment and honourable leadership, before stating own desire to take on the leadership role.

He said: 'I hope that I can bring experience from leading Waveney District Council through some very difficult times over the last seven years. I intend to bring a new sense of direction, emphasis and energy to the county council.

'Having had over 20 years experience in politics and in local government, I intend to use this to help take the county council forward through these very testing and challenging times.'

Mr Bee, who is also chairman of Suffolk's scrutiny committee, acknowledged the difficulties currently being experienced by the county council but called on the party to join together quickly after the leadership election.

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'Time is short. The next county council elections are only two years away. We must deal with the many financial challenges and tough political decisions together as a group, if we are to stand any chance of maintaining control as an administration,' he said.

Mr Pembroke announced his retirement the day after the council announced the departure of director Graham Dixon and monitoring officer Eric Whitfield. The former director of Hambros merchant bank had been a Conservative member of the county council for 10 years and leader for six.

Deputy leader Jane Storey and children and young people's spokesman Graham Newman are also thought to be considering running for the position.

The election for the new leader will take place at the county council's annual general meeting on April 18. It will be run by senior Conservative Party agent Peter Burgoyne and nominations for the post close on April 15.