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Leader of South Kesteven District Council Matthew Lee quits top job

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Matthew Lee, the leader of South Kesteven District Council, has resigned today (Monday, August 5) as leader of the Conservative Group.

Coun Lee (Con) has handed his notice in to Grantham and Stamford Conservative Association today. He currently remains leader of the council and will remain in the role until a successor is elected next month.

The move follows weeks of speculation about the future of the leader, who took over the council in April 2017 with deputy leader Kelham Cook (Con-Barholm).

Matthew Lee and Kelham Cooke
Matthew Lee and Kelham Cooke

No official reason has yet been given for the departure of Coun Lee, who is ward member for Stamford St Mary's, but he is understood to have come under mounting pressure from opponents within his own party.

The problems appear to have arisen after he hung on to his seat by a mere seven votes during the recent council elections, which was won by Liberal Democrat Harrish Bisnauthsing.

The sudden departure of chief executive Aidan Rave, who is understood to have received a pay-out from the council as part of the deal, was said to be the final straw.

Matthew Lee
Matthew Lee

SKDC deputy leader Kelham Cooke confirmed that Coun Lee had resigned as leader of the Conservative Group on the Tory-led council effective immediately.

“Obviously, the Conservative Group will be electing a new group leader. This will happen on September 2.”

The 29-year-old said it was too soon to say whether he'd be standing for leader himself.

Once the ruling Conservative group chooses a new leader, the winning candidate will be put forward as council leader at the next 'full' meeting of SKDC on Thursday September 26.

Then, all of the councillors, will have a vote on whether or not to accept the recommendation.

Coun Cooke has been a loyal deputy to Coun Lee, with the pair both delivering a youthful look when they took over SKDC’s leadership over two years ago.

Coun Matthew Lee and Coun Jacky Smith
Coun Matthew Lee and Coun Jacky Smith

Coun Lee has spearheaded a period of radical change at the council, with it planning a major drive to grow the local economy, through attracting inward investment. Moves such as creating InvestSK as a hands-off council-owned development company were part of this.

The council also moved towards a more commercially minded approach, with it setting up private companies, including EnvironmentSK, as council grounds maintenance services were brought back in-house.

Major developments were also announced or completed, including Grantham’s newly opened cinema, and proposals for ‘enhanced’ or new leisure facilities in Stamford, Bourne, the Deepings and Grantham.

Despite such radical measures, which appeared to be moving towards their delivery, an ‘old guard’ was said to be unhappy at such moves, particularly due to their cost.

Coun Phil Dilks (Ind - Deeping St James) said: “There have been failures in leadership. Clearly, Matthew was shaken at the count to be beaten by a non-Conservative. Independents also came top in 10 wards. That is not a ringing endorsement for either Matthew or the Conservatives."

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