Hampshire County Council Leader Steps Down

The process to elect Hampshire County Council's new leader is set to begin after the resignation of Councillor Ken Thornber.

The 80-year-old announced on Friday 3rd May he would be officially stepping down from the role as leader at the next council meeting on Tuesday 7th May. He kept his Brockenhurst seat in last Thursday's local elections, while his Conservative group kept overall control of the council - though with a reduced majority.

Councillor Thornber says his resignation isn't because of the party losing seats in the county - but because of a promise he made last year, after only narrowly winning a leadership challenge.

He's also faced pressure to stand down because of age, after 14 years in the job.

He said:

"Leader of the County Council is at least a 50 to 60 hour week. It is a 6 day a week job. And of course one was fitting in one's own constituency - and their problems and their issues. The leadership of a top county council, and a very large one, is a full-time job in every sense of the word.

"I do think, with great respect, that I ought to let the group make it's decision. There may be two if not more challengers for the leadership and I think in the interest of everyone, particularly the new members, we ought to ... allow them to make their decision in their time.

"I will conduct the proceedings up to and including the announcement of my successor. However, this has to be ratified by the full council at the annual meeting on 22nd May. In effect therefore, we have a leader - me - and we have a leader elect, until the full council decides. The leader elect will then become the leader."