Matthew Hicks wins Suffolk County Council Conservative leadership vote over Colin Noble
Suffolk County council is to have a new leader – after cabinet member Matthew Hicks defeated Colin Noble in the election for the leader of the ruling Conservative group.
A vote took place behind closed doors this morning (Friday) after Mr Hicks launched his leadership challenge.
The exact result of the secret ballot of the 52 Tory councillors was not revealed, even to them, but councillors we spoke to said they understood Mr Hicks had a 'substantial majority' in a 'conclusive' election result.
Mr Hicks – who is responsible for the environment and public protection in the cabinet – launched his leadership bid last month because of discontent among some of his colleagues at Mr Noble's combative style.
After winning the vote, Mr Hicks paid tribute to his predecessor and his three years in office – but confirmed there would be a change in style.
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However details of any policy changes will have to wait until Mr Hicks is confirmed as new council leader at the authority's annual general meeting on May 24.
Mr Hicks said: 'I want to thank Colin Noble for all he has done. He has a great work ethic and he has been a positive influence – the group is grateful for all he has done.
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'The group has now made a decision and Colin remains leader of the council until the Annual General Meeting.
'I am extremely excited to have been elected by the group but we have a lot to do. I will be talking to my colleagues and we will give more information about what will happen next at the Annual General Meeting.'
While his style might be different to his predecessor, their basic principles were the same.
Mr Hicks said: 'Colin and I are both Conservatives and we have the same core values.'
Mr Noble left the meeting as soon as the vote was announced. He said he was disappointed at the result but took pride in his three years at the helm.
He said: 'I was delighted to become leader and I was delighted to set an agenda and win 52 out of the 75 county council seats in last year's election.
'I would like to congratulate Matthew Hicks and I look forward to seeing how he takes the council forward.'
The new deputy leader is Mary Evans, who has been chair of the council's scrutiny committee. She is expected to get a senior cabinet position. She said: 'I am deeply honoured by the trust that has been put in me by Matthew Hicks and now we are looking forward to getting down to work.'