THE leader of Suffolk County Council, who has been at the forefront of controversial spending cuts, has stepped down.
Cllr Jeremy Pembroke has decided to retire after six years in the role and does not intend to stand for re-election to the authority in 2013.
He said he wanted to quit the post now to give a new leader the chance to make their mark.
As leader, he has overseen the development of the New Strategic Direction as the council makes savings of up to £125 million over the next four years following cuts in Government funding.
Cllr Pembroke, who has served on the council for 10 years and represents the Cosford division, said: “I have enjoyed being leader immensely. I believe we have made great strides in modernising the authority, making efficiencies and creating an organisation that, even in these difficult financial times, will deliver.
“This is the right time for me to step down to give the next leader enough time to prepare for the elections in 2013. I would like to thank the people of Suffolk for their support.”
Cllr Jane Storey, the deputy leader, will take on his duties temporarily until a new leader is elected at the council’s annual general meeting on May 26.
Cllr Storey said: “I’m very sorry that Jeremy is retiring as leader. His leadership is one of great innovation, honesty and openness.”
Andrea Hill, the authority’s chief executive, added: “His leadership, passion and commitment have led to huge improvements at the council.”
However, his departure has received a mixed response from opposition members in Bury St Edmunds.
Liberal Democrat Craig Dearden-Phillips, who represents the Hardwick division, said: “He’s an honourable guy and someone who served the council pretty well. The atmosphere at the moment probably didn’t suit him and his temperament. We’re going into a very difficult time and the job will be demanding over the next two years.”
Green Party councillor Mark Ereira Guyer, who represents the Tower division, said he felt that although Cllr Pembroke was ‘honourable’, he ‘wasn’t very inclusive’.
He added: “The standing of the county council after these six years isn’t high out there in the community. I’m looking forward to a new leader who can be more inclusive.”