Felixstowe councillor Steve Gallant to lead new East Suffok Council
PUBLISHED: 15:16 14 May 2019 | UPDATED: 15:16 14 May 2019
Former Suffolk Coastal cabinet member Steve Gallant is set to be the first leader of East Suffolk Council after winning the race to head the authority's Conservative group.
Mr Gallant, from Felixstowe, was elected leader of the 39-strong Conservative group at the authority this week, and will now be nominated to lead council at its annual meeting next Wednesday.
As the Tories have a 23-seat majority on the 55-seat council, that is expected to be a formality.
Mr Gallant's deputy is set to be Craig Rivett, who represents Carlton Colville and who was deputy leader of Waveney District Council until the merger of the two authorities in April.
The two men had teamed up to challenge former Suffolk Coastal leader Ray Herring, who also stood for the leadership of the new authority.
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Details of the actual vote on the leadership were not published - but Conservative councillors who were at the group meeting that decided who would be leader said the result was "decisive".
Mr Herring led Suffolk Coastal for 20 years - but recently came under fire from councillors after approving the use of £15,000 of council taxpayers' money to fund a party at Snape Maltings to mark the end of the authority.
At the same meeting the Conservatives decided to nominate Colin Hedgley, councillor for Carlford and the Fynn Valley just north of Ipswich, as the first ever chairman of the new council.
Mr Gallant served as a police inspector before retiring, and was the senior officer in the Felixstowe area before being first elected to the old Suffolk Coastal District Council in 2015, serving as cabinet member for community health up to the recent elections.
He said: "It is a great honour to have been elected Group leader at what is such an exciting and historic time for East Suffolk.
"In reaching this position, I am aware I have very big shoes to fill. Both Mark Bee (defeated Waveney leader) and Ray Herring have been huge figures on the local stage and we are in a much stronger position thanks to their efforts.
"In particular, I would like to pay tribute to Ray Herring, who was leader of Suffolk Coastal for 20 years - the longest-serving district leader in the country - and who has worked tirelessly for the people and communities of Suffolk Coastal over these years."