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Cabinet member criticises timing of leadership challenge

PUBLISHED: 16:00 25 September 2011

Kevin Lynes

Kevin Lynes

Archant

A senior Tory figure at Kent County Council has criticised the timing of the leadership challenge issued by two of his colleagues.

Last week two former cabinet members – Cllr Nick Chard and Cllr Keith Ferrin – announced their intentions to dethrone current KCC leader Paul Carter, with Cllr Chard emailing Cllr Carter to tell him he had been unhappy with elements of his leadership “for some time”.

An election among the council’s Conservative group is now due to take place on Friday, October 14, but one of its most senior members told KoS there were more important things to worry about than who leads the authority.

Cabinet member for regeneration and enterprise, Cllr Kevin Lynes, had previously been tipped for a leadership challenge but has not put his name forward on this occasion.

He said: “We have an awful lot going on at KCC at the moment. We have a very difficult regime in terms of finance, and we’re in the middle of a very significant restructure, so in my view now is not the time to be worrying about the leadership. We need to batten down the hatches and get on with things.

“The Conservative group is very tight-knit but Paul Carter would be the first to say a challenge to his leadership is a democratic freedom every member holds. But I hope we can get through this and get back down to the job at hand.”

Cllr Lynes was elected to KCC in 2001 and served as cabinet member for resources from 2002-2005, and then briefly as cabinet member for adult social services in 2008.

“I’ve never made any secret of the fact that I would dearly love that job (of leader),” he said. “It would be a true privilege but now is not the time. That’s why I haven’t thrown my hat in the ring on this occasion.”

Cllr Carter has been leader of the county council since the late Lord Sandy Bruce-Lockhart stepped down in 2005, but there has been disquiet in some quarters for several months.

In an email to his former cabinet boss, Cllr Chard – who was relieved from his highways responsibilities in February – accused him of causing “unnecessary damage” to the administration.

He added: “I have been unhappy with elements of your leadership for some time, even before your curt dismissal of me.

“There is an opportunity to ‘put up or shut up’ at our AGM next month. I intend to be a candidate for the leadership of our group. I want for the people we serve to see a change for the better.”

When contacted by KoS, Cllr Chard said he did not wish to comment further until after the leadership election.

Neither Cllr Carter nor Cllr Ferrin were available for comment.

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