Matthew Hicks promises collaboration as he takes helm at county council
Developing and maintaining Suffolk's road network has been put at the heart of the policies of the new county council leader as he takes over the helm at Endeavour House.
Matthew Hicks pledged a new era of co-operation as he was confirmed as leader of the authority by an overwhelming majority at the council's annual meeting after winning the election to lead the Conservative group earlier this month.
He also announced his first cabinet – which retains many members appointed by his predecessor Colin Noble.
Mr Hicks said: 'My administration is committed to working collaboratively across Suffolk, with the district and borough councils, with the leaders of the health sector, and with business. When I say I am going to work in new ways, let everyone understand I am a Conservative. All of us on these benches are Conservatives. We believe in Conservative values and principles. While we will work collaboratively with the opposition, we will not compromise on our beliefs.
'We must also focus our attention on several important highway projects including the Northern Ipswich Bypass, A12 four village bypass (SEGWAY), Sudbury bypass, Beccles Relief Road, A1307, the A140 and A47 schemes and of course the Lowestoft Third Crossing and the Upper Orwell Crossing.'
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He also accepted there were concerns about the maintenance of the current road network: 'Whether this is around repairs and resurfacing or the inability of members to get things done and looking to tackle this will be a priority for the administration and our new chief executive.'
Labour group leader Sarah Adams welcomed Mr Hicks' pledge on roads. She said: 'The shocking state of Suffolk's roads is well documented, and we urge councillor Hicks to uphold his promise to fixing the crumbling roads, but not just the 25 per cent currently planned, he needs to pledge to fix all of Suffolk's roads.'
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Andrew Stringer, leader of Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent Group, said: 'Matthew has a chance to do something remarkably different here: if he chooses to be collaborative, we will support him; if he chooses to be open and transparent, we will help him. But we will always hold this administration to account if we feel they are not acting in the best interest of Suffolk's residents.'
New Suffolk cabinet unveiled
There are four departures from the cabinet and three new faces.
New deputy leader Mary Evans takes over responsibility for roads, transport and rural affairs from outgoing deputy Jane Storey who leaves the cabinet.
Richard Rout is the new cabinet member for the environment and public protection – including the fire service. These were previously the responsibility of Mr Hicks.
James Reeder is the new cabinet member for public health. Gordon Jones, Richard Smith and Beccy Hopfensperger retain their existing portfolios.
Cabinet member for Ipswich, Paul West, has his role expanded to include responsibilities for communities and waste disposal.
Mr Hicks will retain responsibility for broadband and economic development.
Robin Millar and Tony Goldson join Mr Noble and Mrs Storey in returning to the backbenches.
New chief executive takes the reins
The annual meeting of Suffolk County Council heralded a new era in another way – as well as Matthew Hicks taking over as leader, Nicola Beach was at her first meeting as the new chief executive.
Ms Beach was appointed to the top job in March after a long search for a permanent replacement for Deborah Cadman. Sue Cook had been interim chief executive since September.
The new chief started at Endeavour House this week and was formally introduced to councillors by Mr Hicks.
He said: 'Welcome Nicola and we are very pleased to have you on board at Suffolk County Council and I look forward to building a strong working relationship with you as we continue to focus on delivering services to residents in new ways.'
Ms Beach was previously a director of Essex County Council – but lives in Ipswich and knows Suffolk well. She has been meeting staff at the authority this week.