Leader of Uttlesford District Council to stand down from post

09:50 15 May 2014

Jim Ketteridge

Jim Ketteridge

Archant

The race is on to succeed the leader of Uttlesford District Council.

Councillor Jim Ketteridge, 69, the third longest-serving member in the ­council’s 40-year history, told the Reporter he was stepping down so a new leader could see the ruling Tories through to next year’s ­elections and beyond.

It is unclear exactly when Cllr Ketteridge will move aside but he will see out the term. He will not seek re-election as a councillor next year.

Cllr Ketteridge was elected in 1979 but lost his seat for a term between 1995-99. He became leader in 2007.

Favourites to take over are cabinet members Susan Barker and Howard Rolfe, although the group may seek to go in a different direction so a new leader can distance themselves from the ­controversies of the past 18 months.

The Local Plan, which sets out where houses should be built over the next 17 years, has led to unrest among both councillors and the public – with residents’ campaign groups popping up across Uttlesford.

It is understood the Conservative group has ­organised a meeting for May 31 where councillors are expected to vote for Cllr Ketteridge’s successor.

It is unclear who will throw their hat into the ring – one unnamed Tory has called the post a “poisoned ­chalice” – but the Reporter has drawn up a list of leading candidates.

Cllr Ketteridge chose to officially inform members of his decision after the news was leaked to the Reporter earlier in the week.

At the council’s annual meeting on Tuesday evening, he said: “My friends, family and Conservative Group colleagues are aware of the decision I took before the 2011 local council elections that this council term would be my last after 32 years as an elected Uttlesford District Council member.

“Therefore, as the leader of the Conservative Group and leader of the council, I have to consider the most appropriate time between now and May 2015 to effect a handover of those roles in the interests of the efficient continuity and running of the council.

“When I have made that decision in consultation with colleagues I will advise all members but, in the meantime, reports of my demise are greatly exaggerated.”

Deputy leader Jackie Cheetham said Cllr Ketteridge had taken the council “from the brink to being voted by one survey as the best rural district in the country”.

She called Cllr Ketteridge “the best leader we’ve had in years”, adding: “Jim is an amazing man who has dedicated many, many years to this district. Some people seem to forget that.

“Jim will always listen and his door is always open, even if it’s 9.30am on a Sunday morning. He will be sorely missed.”

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