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Tom FitzPatrick’s partial departure creates further turbulence at NNDC

PUBLISHED: 14:23 15 January 2018 | UPDATED: 16:08 15 January 2018

Sarah Butikofer, Liberal Democrat leader at North Norfolk District Council.  Picture: Liberal Democrats.

Sarah Butikofer, Liberal Democrat leader at North Norfolk District Council. Picture: Liberal Democrats.

Liberal Democrats

The confusion continues at the North Norfolk District Council after leader Tom FitzPatrick has taken a side-step as he announced his resignation due to mounting pressure.

Nick Coppack, North Norfolk District Councillor for Gaunt. Picture: Nick Coppack Nick Coppack, North Norfolk District Councillor for Gaunt. Picture: Nick Coppack

The former Conservative Party leader has announced that John Lee will be taking over as Tory leader, but unusually will be carrying on as Council leader until February’s council budget meeting.

This has sparked concern from fellow party leaders, Sarah Butikofer of the Liberal Democrats said: “This meeting is arguably one of the most important meetings of the year for Councillors.

“The person setting the budget needs to be the person leading the implementation of that budget.”

Councillor Butikofer has written to the Chief Executives and if necessary will write to the Chairman of the Council to request an extraordinary meeting, during which it is hoped John Lee will be appointed leader of the council with immediate effect.

Tom FitzPatrick (conservative) speaks during the Paston Sixth Form College Question Time political debate. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY Tom FitzPatrick (conservative) speaks during the Paston Sixth Form College Question Time political debate. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

She continued: “This is a very important time for the council looking at contracts such as Splash, the Sports Hub and the waste contract, and we need a strong and decisive leader we can all get behind.”

John Lee, the new leader of the Tories said: “The leader of the council has to be ratified by the full council, and the next full council meeting will be in February.

“We didn’t want to waste everyone’s time and officer’s time by calling another meeting before then.”

The future NNDC leader added: “I suppose it doesn’t have to be Councillor FitzPatrick that leads the meeting, but it’s a nice way to end his tenure. Councillor Northam will actually be presenting the budget, and it’s been in the works since November.”

“I don’t think time wasting is at the top of anyone’s agenda,” said Independent leader Nicholas Coppack.

“In my personal opinion I’d just rather get on with it so that the people of North Norfolk don’t have to deal with any uncertainty, and neither does the potential new leader waiting to be voted in.”

“I would like to have a meeting before February to vote in the new leader, as I think the leader of the council at the budget meeting should be the person that’s going to carry them out.”

Current leader of the council Tom FitzPatrick has said that a resignation timetable of this sort is “perfectly normal.”

Mr FitzPatrick said: “It’s entirely normal for it to happen this way, when a resignation has been announced before a meeting.

“There isn’t another council meeting until February which is why I will remain leader until then.”

Mr FitzPatrick did not comment as to whether he would be willing to stand down as chairman before that meeting, saying: “No one has spoken to me about there being another meeting before February, so it’s a hypothetical question.”

He continued: “I wanted to stand down. I spoke to members of the group last year about resigning and they asked me not to.

“However there are other duties I have that have taken second place behind being leader of NNDC and I want to give them my full attention whilst I am fit and able to.”

The Conservative added: “I will continue to sit as a councillor and will do as little or as much as is asked of me by the new leader.”

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