Breaking news: New leader for South Kesteven District Council – but three unhappy Grantham councillors resign

Coun Matthew Lee and Coun Kelham Cooke take on the leadership of the South Kesteven District Council as leader and deputy leader, respectively.

Coun Matthew Lee and Coun Kelham Cooke take on the leadership of the South Kesteven District Council as leader and deputy leader, respectively.

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A new leader of South Kesteven District Council has been voted in this afternoon (Thursday), beating a challenge from a Grantham Independent unaligned councillor.

Stamford councillor Matthew Lee is now the new leader of the council, following on from his successful ousting of former leader Bob Adams from the area’s Conservative group last month.

However, it was not plain sailing during the tense full council meeting in the council chamber in Grantham, as a challenge for the top spot came in the form of Coun Ian Selby, of Grantham Harrowby ward. Coun Ashley Baxter, whose ward is Market and West Deeping, proposed Coun Selby, who gained 13 votes.

But it was not enough as Coun Lee gained 31 votes. There were six abstentions.

The controversy continued as three Conservative councillors, who all represent wards in Grantham, Mike Cook, Nick Craft and Frank Turner, went on to resign from the Conservative Group.

Coun Lee told the meeting that he wanted to lead a council that did not just talk about change but would introduce change to improve the district.

Coun Lee told the meeting: “I am delighted to be addressing you as the leader of South Kesteven District Council.

“Leading this council is a privilege and an honour and I am grateful to the council for the trust you have placed in me.

“We have an exciting period ahead and I look forward to working with everyone across the council, for the good of all residents in every ward we serve.”

Sweeping changes were made to the council executive, with Coun Lee taking the portfolio for Human Resources and Cultural Services. Coun Kelham Cooke was appointed as deputy leader and handed the portfolio for Business Transformation and Commissioning; Coun Mike King was made cabinet member for Economy and Development; Coun Jacky Smith for Major Development Projects; Coun Nick Robins for Retail and Visitor Economy; Coun Helen Goral for Communications and Engagement; Coun Adam Stokes for Finance; Coun Rosemary Woolley for Communities and Wellbeing; and Coun Peter Moseley for the Environment.

Coun Lee went on to outline some of his priorities. They were:

• We want to make sure that all areas are vibrant, clean and attractive and that they are places we can all be proud of. That means getting the basics right, we must invest wisely in the upkeep of the street scene, public spaces, verge cutting, and litter. Some areas are, quite frankly, not up to scratch. This council will have a large-scale Clean Up operation to remove the grime and rubbish from every corner of our district.

• We will focus on the development of Grantham which, if handled well, could provide sustainability for the many critical social resources, such as the hospital.

• We have a wonderful opportunity with the building of the Designer Outlet Village outside of Grantham, but this Council must rise to that challenge. We must ensure that Grantham becomes an attractive and desirable place that people want to visit.

• We have the potential to do so much more in the cultural field. We need to build on the firm foundations of the festivals and other arts and heritage activities we currently provide.

• We will build the cinema in Grantham, ensuring that the council is taking an active part in the regeneration of Grantham’s cultural economy.

• We will put a plan in place for the future of our leisure centres in Stamford, Bourne, and The Deepings.

• We will support a new heritage festival in Bourne.

• We will work in partnership with major tourist attractions to develop a new tourism strategy that brings visitors and money into our district.