St Neots man in running for top council job

TWO front runners are starting to emerge in the contest to be the next leader of Cambridgeshire County Council. Although nominations do not close until May 2 for leadership of the controlling Conservative group before the election a week later, two respec

TWO front runners are starting to emerge in the contest to be the next leader of Cambridgeshire County Council.

Although nominations do not close until May 2 for leadership of the controlling Conservative group before the election a week later, two respected members of the present cabinet have agreed to stand.

But several more hopefuls are known to have been canvassing support among the 43 Tories on the 69-member authority and may yet throw their hats into the ring.

Councillor David Harty, who sits for Little Paxton and St Neots North and holds the service infrastructure portfolio, and Councillor Jill Tuck, who represents Waldersey in Fenland and looks after services for children and young people, both said this week that they would be candidates. Both are likely to attract significant support.


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There is speculation that others may join in the contest, if they can get support. The names of councillors Lister Wilson (Bourn), Simon King (Wisbech South), Alan Melton (Chatteris), Mac McGuire (who lives in Sawtry and represents Norman Cross) and John Powley (Soham and Fordham Villages) have been mentioned. Only Cllr McGuire from that list is a current portfolio-holder, overseeing highways and transport.

Cllr Victor Lucas (Warboys and Upwood), who came a close second in the leadership race last May, became chairman of Cambridgeshire Community Services, part of the county's primary care trust, last December. He confirmed that he would not be a candidate next month.

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Cllr Harty, an architect by profession, who now combines a part-time local practice with membership of the county council since 2005, Huntingdonshire District Council and St Neots Town Council, told The Hunts Post: "My name is going into the hat. I have enjoyed being in cabinet and getting more deeply involved.

"Having stopped working in London every day about five years ago has given me the flexibility to become a councillor," he added.

Cllr Tuck has been a Fenland district councillor since 1991 and a county councillor since 1993.

She said: "There is a massive growth agenda for Cambridgeshire, which is quite concerning, and the new eco-town, for example, planned for South Cambridgeshire, will affect us all."

The contest for a new leader follows the resignation last year of Cllr Shona Johnstone over the replacement of a chief executive. Cllr Keith Walters returned as leader temporarily but made it clear he wanted a permanent successor to be found by May.

Whoever wins the contest will become leader of the council in mid-May. The post attracts an allowance of £21,598 a year on top of the basic councillor's allowance of £7,388 - a total of almost £29,000.

The new leader's priorities will include adult social care, development of Cambridge sub-region and related infrastructure issues, the A14, the Huntingdon-Cambridge guided bus link that is due to start operation in spring next year, possible public transport improvements across the county combined with congestion charging in Cambridge city centre and, at least in the short term, the possible closure of a number of post offices.

Unlike last year, when Tory councillors used a first-past-the-post system to elect Cllr Johnstone, this year's contest will involve candidates being eliminated one by one until there is a clear preference of more than 50 per cent of the group. May 9 should be an interesting day.

nLib Dem tactics aim to put HDC leader under pressure Page 12.

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