Lewes council leader ‘to step down’

James Page
James Page

The Leader of Lewes District Council has indicated that he intends to step down because he wants to spend more time with his family and running his business.

Cllr James Page has been at the helm since February 2012, overseeing an overhaul of the senior management team and changing how the local authority runs.

Now the Conservative member has decided to walk away in the new year, according to reports.

It is understood he will remain a councillor, with deputy council leader Rob Blackman expected to succeed him in February.

Cllr Page said on becoming Leader: “I got involved in politics because I felt things could be done better. For me, better is about putting residents first; and putting residents first doesn’t just mean service improvements. It’s also about doing the right thing at the right time and at the right cost.

“Sometimes we have to realise we can’t do everything and that some things are for us to influence and guide but not own. I believe we have got a chance to do just that. To protect services to the public we need to provide excellent value for money.”

His vision has been to create a “One District One Council” approach that brings Lewes District Council closer to the residents it serves. He has focused on “unswerving commitment to excellent services, uncompromising commitment to quality; and unlocking the talents of staff to improve services”.

During his time, Cllr Page has received some criticism for “secretive” decision-making and overseeing the recruitment of three new council directors. He also agreed to sell off the recreation ground in Newhaven to Kuwaiti developers for their plans to build the ‘world’s largest water park’, which have now been dropped.

The council is currently run by a minority Tory adminstration with 20 Conservatives, 18 Liberal Democrats, two Ukip and one independent.

Lewes District Council’s Lib Dem leader Cllr Chris Bowers said: “I have never doubted that James Page has pursued what he believed was right, even if I have disagreed with a lot of what he has tried to do. While he can be very abrasive, there’s no doubt some of his personal skills have been of immense value to the council.

“It’s important to remember that being leader of any council is not easy, and you’re frequently damned whatever you to. To that extent I’m grateful that there are people like James Page willing to give time to their community, even if I often wish they did things differently to the way the Liberal Democrats would do them.”