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Gloucestershire Business News

Gloucester power vacuum as nine councillors depart

A power vacuum is heading for Gloucester after nine councillors announced they would not stand in the upcoming elections.

The ruling Conservatives have been thrown into flux after leader Richard Cook (C, Kingsway) and deputy Hannah Norman (C, Quedgeley Fieldcourt) both announced their departures at an emotional meeting last night (March 21).

In total there are seven Tory and two Liberal Democrats councillors who will not be seeking re-election in May.

Cllr Cook received a standing ovation after his speech which announced his retirement  due to health issues and thanked his fellow party members who were standing down.

He said his deputy and performance and resources cabinet member Cllr Norman was "quite simply my right arm".

She is leaving the authority to further her career and said: "I see you all as friends and I will definitely be your biggest cheerleader.

"Thank you to all my cabinet colleagues over the years. I'm incredibly proud of what we have achieved over the years."

Cllr Cook praised departing Paul Toleman (C, Westgate) as a "planning stalwart" and "heritage champion"and Andrew Durdey (C, Coney Hill) who sat on audit and was most recently spokesperson for overview and scrutiny.

He said the planning committee would be "greatly changed" when vice chairman and former culture and leisure cabinet member Steve Morgan (C, Grange) departs.

Planning chairman Gordon Taylor (C, Abbeymead) has "earned respect from all for his measured approach in dealing even the most contentious applications" and was thanked for his work in planning policy, the climate member working group and on the general purposes committee.

Cllr Cook also thanked communities and neighbourhoods cabinet member Ray Padilla (C, Matson, Robinswood and White City) who is leaving after getting a promotion and transfer to work in Worcester.

Cllr Cook moved to Gloucester from Reading 10 years ago after retiring from a career which included senior management with a major international airline and running his own businesses.

He was elected in 2016 and had a meteoric rise, being invited to join the cabinet three months later and becoming leader in 2019, taking over from Paul James.

He has led the council through the Covid-19 pandemic, the cost-of-living crisis and the regeneration masterplan for Gloucester city centre.

In his speech last night he said: "Most members will know I underwent major surgery last year and I had hoped for a speedy and robust recovery which has failed to materialise.

"There is no doubt that to do the extent of work necessary to accomplish the leader's workload requires stamina which I no longer have.

He said it was a difficult decision and he was aware many colleagues did not want him to go but he was "too proud to be carried".

"I leave behind a legacy of Gloucester's regeneration.It is time for someone younger to see things through to their inevitable successful conclusion."

Liberal Democrat leader Jeremy Hilton (LD, Kingsholm and Wotton) thanked Cllrs Cook and Norman for dealing with questions from his group.

"I'm wishing everyone the best, those who are stepping down and those who are looking to defend their council seats. Everybody has served this council excellently."

"You deserve the rest of those who are stepping down and you deserve good health as well."

He told the council David Brown (LD, Hucclecote) and Joanne Brown (LD, Barnwood) would be stepping down after serving the city "exceptionally well".

"Particularly in their civic roles. Both have been sheriff in both of them have been mayor and both have been the partner for the mayor and sheriff. They've done all the jobs you can do as civic leaders of Gloucester."

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