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Published: 18:00, 28 August 2008 |
Updated: 09:09, 30 August 2008
The politician in charge of Kent's schools has quit his job after barely a year in the post - and just a week after the county's secondary schools posted some of their best-ever results in GCSE exams.
In an unexpected move that has taken many by surprise, county councillor Chris Wells is to stand down from one of the key political positions in Kent County Council's Conservative cabinet and return to the backbenches.
Cllr Wells, who comes from Thanet, declined to comment about the reasons for his decision when contacted by the Kent Messenger Group, saying it would not be appropriate to do so.
KCC's Conservative leader Paul Carter said on Friday: "Chris Wells has chosen to spend more time running his consultancy business and feels he needs to focus on working on local issues in the run-up to the county election next year, recognising the marginal nature of his county division in Margate."
Cllr Roger Gough, who was cabinet member for regeneration, has also resigned. Cllr Carter said: "He is committing full-time to his position as a Research Director of Policy Exchange, at a particularly exciting time in national politics."
There is some surprise that Cllr Wells has left after such a short time.
Less than two weeks ago, he was leading tributes to Kent's pupils over their exam success. He had also been highly critical of the Government's decision to label 31 schools in the county as under-performing.
He was promoted to the cabinet when his predecessor, John Simmonds, was sacked last July by Cllr Carter after a series of disagreements over policy.
His replacement sees a return to the Conservative cabinet for Cllr Leyland Ridings, who will be given the role. A former chairman of KCC, the east Kent councillor was previously in the cabinet in a similar role.
Cllr Gough's replacement is Cllr Kevin Lynes, who represents Tunbridge Wells East.
In other changes, Cllr Graham Gibbens, who was member for public health, has gone into the role of Kent adult social services. Cllr Alan Marsh comes into the cabinet as member for public health.
Alongside Cllr Wells' departure, other appointments have been made following the deaths of Lord Sandy Bruce-Lockhart, who chaired KCC's NHS Scrutiny committee, and Cllr John Law, who represented Herne Bay.
Bryan Cope comes in to the role occupied by Lord Bruce-Lockhart until his death.
Cllr Carter confirmed the appointments would come into effect from Monday.
Opposition Labour leader Cllr Mike Eddy said: "It's no great surprise to me that Paul Carter has reshuffled his Cabinet yet again.
"Reshuffling his Cabinet in the lead-up to the Conservative's annual meeting shows he doesn't feel in control and doesn't think he can keep this ship on an even keel for a few short weeks. I wonder how much longer this can go on."
The cabinet now:
• Leader of the Council: Paul Carter
• Deputy Leader of the Council: Alex King
• Education Operations, Resources and Skills: Mark Dance
• Children, Families and Educational Achievement: Leyland Ridings
• Regeneration and Supporting Independence: Kevin Lynes
• Kent Adult Social Services: Graham Gibbens
• Environment, Highways and Waste: Keith Ferrin
• Public Health: Alan Marsh
• Community Services: Mike Hill
• Finance: Nick Chard
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