A NEW leader of South Gloucestershire Council will be named this evening following the announcement that Cllr Matthew Riddle will not seek re-election for the post.

Cllr Riddle, who represents the Severn ward on the council, has led the council since 2015 after his Conservative Group gained an overall majority in the council, but will step down to encourage “fresh new leadership” in the run-up to next May’s local election.

Under the cabinet system, which was reintroduced by the ruling Conservative group last year, Cllr Riddle has also served as the executive member for the local economy and devolution, having served as SGC’s representative on the West of England Combined Authority.

His successor as the Conservative group and council leader will be voted for this evening at the group’s annual general meeting.

Cllr Riddle is, however, still expected to re-run for his council seat next year, with South Gloucestershire’s local elections being affected by ward boundary changes and the number of councillors to drop by nine to 61.

Speaking before the AGM, Cllr Riddle said: “Over the last four years I have been immensely proud to have led the Conservative Group on South Gloucestershire Council, as well as the authority as council Leader following our victory in 2015.

“In that four years we have gone from strength to strength as a group, gaining councillors, MPs, and control of the administration which has allowed us to run an effective and compassionate administration which has placed our most vulnerable residents, and our firm belief in communities progressing positively, at the centre of all of our decision making.

“As a group we have faced tough challenges and decisions along the way; delivering value for money under constrained finances, planning and development and importantly on education standards but we have certainly always strived with every fibre to ensure that this administration has fought hard on behalf of those we serve to deliver for them.

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South Gloucestershire Council's offices on Badminton Road, Yate

“As the time comes for the group to elect its leader at the Annual General meeting, and as we approach crucial elections in May 2019, I have taken the decision after much deliberation that I will not be seeking to be re-elected as Leader of the group, and council leader.

“I firmly believe that as we head towards those key local elections next year that now is the right time for the group to elect a fresh new leader who can provide the energy and a new approach to the challenge ahead in the next year.” 

“I will continue to campaign, support, and back whoever the group decides to elect, and I remain committed to supporting the Conservatives here in South Gloucestershire so they can continue to deliver for residents as they have over the last four years.”

The announcement comes only three weeks after it was confirmed fellow cabinet member Cllr John Goddard would be stepping down from his corporate resources role in order for a successor to be trained by the local election next May.

But while the council claimed Cllr Goddard would leave the role as he did not intend to run for re-election, Cllr Goddard said that the decision was made due to ageism, a claim the council has refuted.

More to follow…