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Tory leader speaks of need to bring KCC and the parish councils on board

By Alan Smith

Cllr Annabelle Blackmore is the new leader of the Conservative group on Maidstone Borough Council.

She was elected to the post by her fellow Conservative councillors at a party meeting on Friday with a clear majority over two rival candidates, Cllrs Paulina Stockell and David Burton.

Cllr Blackmore is something of a surprise choice as she was not one of the senior cabinet members of her predecessor Chris Garland, who resigned as leader following the local elections on May 22.

Council leader Annabelle Blackmore

Her party colleague, Cllr Stephen Paine, said: “Annabelle has proved herself, doing good work on the scrutiny committees. She will make a good leader.”

Cllr Blackmore has represented Marden and Yalding since 2003, but had a house in the village since 1999.

She was born in Chatham, but spent her teenage years in Penenden Heath.

Formerly an insurance broker, she has not held paid employment since becoming a councillor, although she has held some voluntary posts and also looks after her two pre-teenage children.

Her initial arrival on the political scene was mired with controversy when she unexpectedly moved to Bermuda just three weeks after being elected, to accompany her husband, a financial consultant, on a temporary work posting.

She resisted calls for her to resign, saying she could deal with her constituents’ inquiries by email.

After her return to England, she has worked steadily from the back-benches. She is currently chairman of the community, leisure services, environment and overview scrutiny committee, a member of the Joint Transport Board and a member of the scrutiny co-ordinating committee.

Since February 2008, she has attended 129 of the 145 meetings where her presence was expected, an average attendance rate of 89%.

She lives at Poplar Tree Farm, in Milebush Lane, Marden, and said her hobbies were cooking, gardening and walking her dog.

She said under her leadership the Tory group would make an effort to build closer links with Kent County Council. She said: “We agree on many issues but there is scope for some delicate negotiations to take place.”

Equally, the Conservatives would seek to strengthen links with the parish councils. She said: “All three levels of Government must work closely together - especially in these times of restrained budgets.”

Whether Cllr Blackmore will also become the new leader of Maidstone council will depend on a vote taken by the full council at a meeting tomorrow (Saturday).

Following the recent election of four UKIP councillors, the Conservative group no longer has an overall majority and will need the support of at least two non-Tory councillors to form a minority administration.

Cllr Blackmore would not be drawn on whether she expects to be council leader by the end of the day.

She said: “I wouldn’t want to say anything prematurely. Things are very delicate and it will be the decision of councillors on the day.”

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