Members of the Staffordshire Moorlands Conservative Group have voted in a new leader. Councillor Sybil Ralphs has been leader of the group for 15 years but has now been voted out as their leader by fellow Tories and replaced by councillor Paul Roberts.
Members of the Staffordshire Moorlands Conservative Group have voted in a new leader.
Councillor Sybil Ralphs has been leader of the group for 15 years but has now been voted out as their leader by fellow Tories and replaced by councillor Paul Roberts.
The vote for a change in leadership took place at the group’s AGM meeting last Thursday (April 14).
Cllr Ralphs still remains as leader of Staffordshire Moorlands District Council. A vote on the leadership for the next council year is set to take place at the SMDC Full Council meeting on Wednesday, May 4.
Cllr James Aberley said on behalf of the Staffordshire Moorlands Conservative Group: “Councillor Paul Roberts has been elected as the new leader of the Conservative Group at Staffordshire Moorlands District Council at the group AGM.
“Paul replaces councillor Sybil Ralphs who has served the Staffordshire Moorlands as leader of the group since 2007.
“A long serving district councillor, Paul was elected to represent Caverswall ward in 2003. Councillor Mark Deaville was re-elected as Deputy Leader, a role he’s held since 2019 and will provide valuable support to the new leader.”
Cllr Aberley continued: “Cllr Ralphs, who represents Bagnall and Stanley ward, was instrumental in bringing the Conservative group to power in the Staffordshire Moorlands in 2007, working hard across multiple elections to build up numbers from the previous ratepayer administration and introduced widely popular policies including a seven year freeze on council tax around the austerity era, saving taxpayers in the Moorlands large amounts of money during that time.
“Cllr Ralphs has also been responsible for prudently managing the budget and operations of the council over the pandemic.
“The Conservative Association, and group would like to formally thank cllr Ralphs for her time on the council and wish her all the best for the future.”
Cllr Roberts said: “It’s time for a new direction for the Staffordshire Moorlands, but before we go any further, I want to hear from our residents about the matters they care about so we can work together to build a sustainable future for the district.
“We promise to listen more than we speak and to consult residents more widely on decisions in the future.”
Cllr Aberley added: “Cllr Roberts will be shortly outlining his new cabinet team, which will need to be formally confirmed at the annual general meeting of the full council on May 4, following which the Conservative Group will work on and publish an agenda for the 2022-23 year and following that, an election Manifesto for the 2023 district elections.”
Last month, the Times & Echo reported that Leek town Conservative councillor Roy Molson had sent an open letter to cllr Ralphs, calling for her resignation as SMDC leader.
Following last week’s meeting of the Staffordshire Moorlands Conservative Group, cllr Molson told us: “I am sad that councillor Ralphs has chosen to cling on to her position as leader of SMDC, despite my letter to her advising her it was time to retire gracefully. Having lost the confidence of the Conservative group at SMDC, she will force a vote at full council.
“This further denial that her time is up, is the very reason I felt the need to write a public letter asking her to step down from the leadership.
“The group decision to replace her was however, a welcome and necessary action.”
Cllr Molson added: “I know councillor Paul Roberts is a well respected and competent person, who will take the district council in a more inclusive direction.
“I look forward as a Leek town councillor to working with him and SMDC for the greater benefit of Leek and the Moorlands as a whole.”
The Times & Echo contacted cllr Ralphs for a response, to which, she told us that she did not wish to make any comment at this time.
Meanwhile, the opposition party at SMDC, The Labour Group, has sent out a response to the matter.
Leader of the local Labour Group, councillor Mike Gledhill, said: “It is deeply disappointing to see the current turmoil at SMDC as the ruling group of Conservative councillors prioritise their own infighting over serving the people of the Moorlands.
“They have been increasingly out of touch from the debacle of the Chief Executive’s sudden departure in 2020 through controversies in Leek, Cheadle and Biddulph, the recent budget u-turn and throughout all this a complacent reliance on costly consultants to create policy for our town centres.
“Now, it appears they have u-turned over cllr Ralphs’ leadership, clearly with thoughts about the 2023 elections in mind.”
Cllr Gledhill added: “Moorlands residents and businesses deserve better than this as we rebuild after Covid.
“It is high time for all of us councillors to put the people first, work together and stop the rot.”
Meanwhile, Independent Cheadle town and district councillor Gary Bentley said: “I am looking forward to working with whoever the cabinet members are, like I have tried to in the past.”
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