May 20, 2022 3.00 pm

South Kesteven leader shrugs off leadership challenge rumours

“Is there?”

South Kesteven District Council leader Kelham Cooke has shrugged off rumours about a potential coup in the authority’s Conservative group.

A source close to the council has told reporters Councillor Graham Jeal is set to challenge Councillor Cooke during a meeting of the group on Monday.

However, asked about the situation by Local Democracy Reporter Daniel Jaines at a meeting of Lincolnshire County Council Full Council on Friday, Councillor Cooke claimed ignorance.

As he wandered away from the reporter he said: “Is there? Is there? Well, we’ve got the council’s Annual General Meeting next week so we’ll see what happens.”

The AGM will take place at 1pm on Thursday.

According to the source, Councillor Jeal has “the support of a majority of councillors but several are away or too ill to attend so it’s not clear who will win”.

They said Councillor Jeal’s side was focusing on policy and next year’s elections, arguing the current leadership was “lacking direction”.

Some fear that without change the Tories will lose control of the council, it is understood.

However,  Councillor Cooke’s supporters are said to focus instead on personality, arguing his removal will “destroy a young man’s career when he inherited problems left by [previous leader] Coun Lee”.

They believe the Independents are too fractured to take control next year.

Local Democracy Reporters spoke to others who had heard similar rumours in the council.

Several phone calls and emails have been sent to Councillor Graham Jeal, however, no response had been received at the time of publishing.

Councillor Cooke was elected to SKDC in 2015 and took over from Councillor Matthew Lee as leader of the authority in 2019 seeing off competition from then Councillor Bob Adams.

He was elected to LCC in 2021.