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South Kesteven District Council leader Matthew Lee quits top job

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Matthew Lee, the leader of South Kesteven District Council, has resigned today (Monday, August 5) as leader of the Conservative Group.

Coun Lee (Con) has handed his notice in to Grantham and Stamford Conservative Association today. He remains council leader until the whole council votes on a replacement on Thursday September 26.

The move follows weeks of speculation about the future of the leader, who took over the council in April 2017 with deputy leader Kelham Cook (Con-Barholm).

Matthew Lee and Kelham Cooke
Matthew Lee and Kelham Cooke

No official reason has yet been given for the departure of Coun Lee, who is ward member for Stamford St Mary's, but he is understood to have come under mounting pressure from opponents within his own party.

The problems appear to have arisen after he hung on to his seat by a mere seven votes during the recent council elections, which was won by Liberal Democrat Harrish Bisnauthsing.

The sudden departure of chief executive Aidan Rave, who is understood to have received a pay-out from the council as part of the deal, was said to be the final straw.

Matthew Lee
Matthew Lee

SKDC deputy leader Kelham Cooke confirmed that Coun Lee had resigned as leader of the Conservative Group on the Tory-led council effective immediately.

“Obviously, the Conservative Group will be electing a new group leader. This will happen on September 2.”

Coun Cooke said it was too soon to say whether he'd be standing for leader himself.

The ruling Conservative group will then put their new leader forward as council leader, with the whole council voting to approve their choice at its 'full' meeting on Thursday September 26.

The 29-year-old has been a loyal deputy to Coun Lee, with the pair both delivering a youthful look when they took over SKDC’s leadership over two years ago.

Coun Matthew Lee and Steve Bowyer, chief executive of InvestSK, in Stamford High Street
Coun Matthew Lee and Steve Bowyer, chief executive of InvestSK, in Stamford High Street

Coun Lee has spearheaded a period of radical change at the council, with it planning a major drive to grow the local economy, through attracting inward investment. Moves such as creating InvestSK as a hands-off council-owned development company were part of this.

The council also moved towards a more commercially minded approach, with it setting up private companies, including EnvironmentSK, as council grounds maintenance services were brought back in-house.

Major developments were also announced or completed, including Grantham’s newly opened cinema, and proposals for ‘enhanced’ or new leisure facilities in Stamford, Bourne, the Deepings and Grantham.

Matthew Lee (5721480)
Matthew Lee (5721480)

Despite such radical measures, which appeared to be moving towards their delivery, some councillors were said to be unhappy at such moves, particularly due to their cost.

Coun Phil Dilks (Ind - Deeping St James) said: “There have been failures in leadership. Clearly, Matthew was shaken at the count to be beaten by a non-Conservative. Independents also came top in 10 wards. That is not a ringing endorsement for either Matthew or the Conservatives."

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