September 3, 2019 9.56 am This story is over 50 months old

New Tory leader elected in South Kesteven

Councillor Lee quit as leader, a position he has held since April 2017, last month.

Councillor Kelham Cooke has been voted in as the new leader of the South Kesteven District Council Conservative group after Councillor Matthew Lee stepped down.

Councillor Lee quit as leader, a position he has held since April 2017, last month.

It is understood he handed in his notice to Grantham and Stamford Conservative Association to quit as leader of the council’s ruling Tory group.

Councillor Cooke has been acting as interim leader since Councillor Lee quit, he will also face a vote as to whether he will lead the council on September 26.

Following his election victory against fellow Councillor Bob Adams last night, Councillor Cooke tweeted: “I am honoured and thrilled to have been elected as the new Leader of the Conservative Group.

“I look forward to the challenges & opportunities ahead and full council on the 26 September when I hope to win the support of members to become the next Leader of South Kesteven.”

Reports elsewhere have suggested Councillor Lee had been under mounting pressure to resign from opposition members following the departure of the authority’s chief executive Aidan Rave.

However, sources within the party have suggested there are “personal reasons” behind the decision.

Councillor Lee is understood to be making a full statement at the next meeting of the full council.

Philip Sagar, deputy Vice President of the Grantham and Stamford Association, praised Councillor Lee for his work.

“I’m sure that all the plans he has put in place will continue under the stewardship of whoever follows Matthew as leader,” he said.

“I’m saddened by the situation but it’s one of those things in life, we are where we are and I wish Matthew all the best for the next few months and beyond.”

Since his election as leader in April 2017, Councillor Lee has overseen council initiatives designed to drive the economy.

The authority has set up a number of private sector initiatives, such as InvestSK, Discover SK, Deliver SK and Environment SK.

SKDC’s former Conservative Leader Councillor Matthew Lee (right) with at-the-time deputy Kelham Cooke at the front of Full Council.

Other projects such as a new cinema in Grantham and public realm works have been approved.

Councillor Lee was re-elected to the council in May, but finished second to the Liberal Democrats.

Councillor Harrish Bisnauthsing came top of the Stamford St Mary’s ward with 626 votes, while Councillor Lee managed 617.

Councillor Lee’s departure also follows the exit of chief executive, Aidan Rave, last month. Mr Rave’s departure has raised questions of its own among opposition.

Independent councillor Phil Dilks said there had been concern across the council about the leadership.

“Clearly there has been concern within the ruling group and right across the council about the way things have been done,” he said.

“The first three council meetings since the election have done nothing that would enhance the reputation of any council.”

SUBSCRIBE TO LOCAL DEMOCRACY WEEKLY, our exclusive email newsletter with highlights from coverage every week, as well as insights and analysis from our local democracy reporters.