May 12, 2023 10.30 am This story is over 6 months old

South Kesteven Tories choose new leader as council control remains uncertain

Elections indicate ‘clear desire for change’

South Kesteven District Council Conservatives have elected a new leader for their group – but the authority is still without a ruling group.

Councillor Graham Jeal, a ward councillor and the Mayor of Grantham, was elected unopposed on Thursday.

Councillor Jeal said: “It’s a tremendous honour to have been confirmed as leader, even more so unopposed.

“It demonstrates real unity in the local party.

“The election results last week suggested a clear desire for change at South Kesteven District Council.

“National issues played a role, but local issues were also a significant part of the results.”

The Conservatives said they will continue to “work constructively for the good of all residents” – but it’s unclear whether this will be as the ruling group or opposition.

They lost 16 seats during the vote last week, including the former leader and deputy leader. 

Graham Jeal

Councillor Jeal was elected unopposed

He said the party was “enormously grateful” for the support but needed to reflect on residents’ concerns.

He added that the new council would be “very different” to the previous one.

“[The Conservatives] stand ready and able to serve, with a responsible team that understands the importance of spending public money wisely,” he said.

It is understood the party do not yet have enough allies to cross the 29 seat threshold, with just 24 currently.

An opposition coalition hopes it will get enough members to get in power for the next four years, although has yet to select a leader.

Fellow Conservative party member Councillor Ben Green said the party was “united behind its leader”.

“[We] are prepared to work with anyone willing to enter into our spirit of unity – and professionalism, too,” he added.

Earlier this week, former Council leader Kelham Cooke confirmed he had his office “all packed up”.

Councillor Cooke was removed from his seat, along with deputy Councillor Adam Stokes, during the surprise election night results.

Posting on Twitter, he said: “I’d like to pay tribute to the incredible team of members and officers who I’ve worked with, and wish everyone the best for the future.”

Councillors Cooke and Stokes remain as Lincolnshire County Councillors.

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