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Robert Thomas chosen as Canterbury City Council's new leader

Canterbury City Council has a new leader after the district's Tories voted in a secret ballot yesterday evening.

Cllr Robert Thomas, who is also on Kent County Council, will be taking up the mantle as authority leader in two weeks' time as he replaces the outgoing Simon Cook.

He triumphed at a Conservative vote last night as he won a two-horse race between himself and newly-elected Reculver councillor Rachel Carnac.

Robert Thomas is the new leader of Canterbury City Council
Robert Thomas is the new leader of Canterbury City Council

The Chartham and Stone Street representative first became a councillor in 2011 and was re-elected on Friday after gaining 20% of the vote in his two-seat ward.

Previous leader Simon Cook had a four-year spell at the top of the tree but lost his position on the authority to Mike Sole of the Lib Dems.

Cllr Thomas, whose father Ian is a Tory councillor for Swalecliffe, has a background in accountancy and is a former financial administrator at the University of Kent.

On becoming leader, he said: "I have mixed emotions about it.

"Simon Cook has done great work and I was genuinely devastated to lose him and other colleagues. It was a bitter pill to take but we had a good result overall.

Simon Cook's replacement has been announced
Simon Cook's replacement has been announced

"When speaking to fellow Conservative councillors I told them we need someone who can pick up the pieces and continue with the projects we have in the pipeline.

"I put myself forward as I know the area well and believe we can be an ambitious council which punches above its weight.

"I have ambition but I want to be a boringly competent leader."

With air quality, cost savings and the potential relocation of the council offices on his mind, former Simon Langton Grammar School for Boys pupil isn't planning on ripping up his predecessor's work.

'I have ambition but I want to be a boringly competent leader' - council leader Robert Thomas

He said: "There are things I believe that can be improved but there isn't anything I want to fundamentally change. If it's not broken, don't fix it.

"I just want to get on with what residents expect from a council and empower the great ideas that councillors have got."

Cllr Thomas, who lives in Wincheap and loves his comedy, became a KCC councillor in autumn last year following a resounding victory at the Canterbury North by-election.

He will officially become city council boss at the authority's annual meeting on Wednesday, May 22.

Tomorrow's Kentish Gazette will have a more in-depth interview with the new leader as well as a four-page special on Canterbury's local elections.

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