‘Hardest decision of my life’ says Cambridgeshire county councillor Martin Curtis as he steps down as leader

18:12 21 March 2014

Election of Chairman and Leader for Cambridgeshire County Council. Cllr Martin Curtis.

Election of Chairman and Leader for Cambridgeshire County Council. Cllr Martin Curtis.

Archant

County councillor Martin Curtis announced tonight he is to step down as leader of Cambridgeshire County Council after just a year in the top job.

He said he took the role last year “promising not to become embroiled in petty politics and to do the best for the people of Cambridgeshire.”

But he said with the change to the new committee system in May he believes “the evidence of the last year and, especially of recent months, suggests that the council will become embroiled in petty politics at the expense of the huge strategic issues the council is succeeding with”

He also expressed his fears that new structure “could lose focus on protecting vulnerable Cambridgeshire residents from harm”.

Cllr Curtis landed the leadership after Nick Clarke – the former leader- lost his seat during the May county council elections. Those elections also saw the Conservatives lose overall control of the council resulting in opposition groups forcing through the abandonment of the cabinet system and the re-introduction, from May, of a committee system of governance.

Cllr Curtis said his decision to quit after the annual meeting of the council in May “has been the hardest decision I have ever had to make.

“But I vowed to always do the best for the people of Cambridgeshire. I do not believe my skills rest in dealing with the continuous stream of dogma that is going to get into the way of the direction of this council that the move to committees will bring. “Evidence of the last few months has shown to me that this is where we are heading.

“Our councillors need to be absolutely concentrating on the people of Cambridgeshire and the challenges they face. We need to be looking after the most vulnerable, making our roads work better and ensuring people have access to jobs.

“In the last year the council has achieved billions of pounds of investment that directly benefit the people we serve. I am extremely proud of the massive strides we have taken in solving some of the major problems facing Cambridgeshire and our record stands for itself. But this is about to become bogged down by people more interested in grandstanding or focussing on minor issues that are better dealt with more informally than doing what is best.

“I fear that we are about to rush headlong into a committee system that will be characterised by petty politics and infighting, with the needs of the people of Cambridgeshire coming a very poor last.”

He said it would have been easy for him to carry on as leader “but I believe we are elected by the people for the people.

“I cannot, in all conscience, be part of that system and see the massive achievements we have made become lost in a sea of self-serving noise.

“I hope that by resigning I can make some of our opposition groups think twice about the lack of strategic focus they have shown over the last ten months and the damage that will do to a county council with a £500m budget under the committee system.”

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