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The top ranks of the Local Government Association enter the fourth annual conference looking suspiciously like they...
The top ranks of the Local Government Association enter the fourth annual conference looking suspiciously like they did at its first. Sir Jeremy Beecham is still chair of the organisation, though Conservative gains are beginning slowly to eat into his mandate, and Lord Hanningfield remains at the top of the Tory tree.

Even their rivals look a little long in the tooth. Education chair Graham Lane, for instance, seems destined never to fulfil his dream of taking Sir JeremyÕs job.

In the Tory camp, Wiltshire CC leader Peter Chalke and Kent CC leader Sandy Bruce-Lockhart are still chasing Lord Hanningfield. The shrewd peer has somehow managed to remain in charge of the group and no date has been set for leadership elections.

But beneath the stalemates at the top of the association, fresh talent is bubbling up from councils around the country. New faces are taking seats at the association and on other important bodies such as the regional assemblies, the European Committee of the Regions and the House of Lords. Newham LBC leader and new Association of London Government chair Sir Robin Wales is probably the foremost of the new breed.


Ros Scott

Baroness of Needham Market

Member, Suffolk CC

Ros Scott was being tipped for a major Lords job almost as soon as her peerage was announced in April. The Liberal Democrat councillor's barony is the most significant in a long list of local government posts. She has been Lib Dem group leader at Suffolk, party spokeswoman on the LGA transport executive, a member of the Committee of the Regions and a member of the East of England Local Government Conference. Ms Scott made her maiden speech in the Lords just last month, but some already suggest she is in line for a role in transport, the environment or Europe.


Stephen Houghton

Leader, Barnsley MBC

Stephen Houghton is a leading moderniser in what is often thought of as a typically old Labour part of the country. This contrast has already brought him to the attention of many in the local government world, and he is expected to win a major LGA role within the year. Mr Houghton is also known as chair of the Special Interest Group of Metropolitan Authorities and for his involvement in economic regeneration. He sits on the board of the influential Yorkshire Forward regional development agency and is chair of the Barnsley Regeneration Forum.


Paul Bettison

Leader, Bracknell Forest BC

Businessman Paul Bettison has recently become chair of the LGA's housing executive, a position won by the Conservatives after their success in May's elections. A relative newcomer to local government, he has instituted a number of cutting edge IT projects at Bracknell Forest, and speaks for his party on information and communication technology matters. Mr Bettison has built a reputation as local government's very own Imelda Marcos with his collection of more than 1,000 ties and his Jaguar's personalised BETI5ON number plate.


Richard Kemp

Cabinet member, Liverpool City Council

If Liverpool leader Mike Storey steps down in the near future, right hand man Richard Kemp could replace him at the head of one of England's most closely watched councils. Mr Kemp has started making ripples on the national scene; taking the chair of 4Ps, the company that advises councils on the private finance initiative, and becoming a leading spokesman on urban issues for the Liberal Democrats. Described as 'very influential' by party sources, he is vice chair of the LGA housing executive and holds the housing and neighbourhood services brief in Liverpool.


Pauleen Lane

Deputy leader, Trafford MBC

As a member of Labour's national policy forum, Pauleen Lane is one of the few councillors able to influence national government policy. More significantly, she is said to have the ear of local MP Beverley Hughes, giving her a hotline to the heart of Labour's team of local government ministers. Ms Lane already has a growing national profile. She sits on the LGA scrutiny panel and the North West regional assembly, as well as being a director of the English Partnerships regeneration body.


Jane Roberts

Leader, Camden LBC

Jane Roberts last month became Labour leader of double beacon Camden LBC following a stint as chair of the council's successful education service. She inherits the politically difficult job of moving the anti-restructuring council through the modernisation process, a role that has already defeated former leader Richard Arthur. But Ms Roberts appears to command the respect of Camden's refusenik faction, and success in taking the council forward will surely point to greater things ahead.


Gordon Keymer

Leader, Tandridge DC

Despite only becoming a council leader in May, Gordon Keymer's name is already being mentioned alongside those of the more established Sandy Bruce-Lockhart and Peter Chalke as a contender for the leadership of the LGA Conservative group. He is the group's secretary, chair of the LGA rural commission, a member of the association's executive and is its Conservative local government finance spokesman. Mr Keymer is former deputy Conservative group leader of the Association of District Councils, and remains the Tories' leading district member. He led his group to victory in this year's local government elections, securing a majority of 16 in Tandridge.


Colin Barrow

Deputy leader, Surrey CC

Colin Barrow has recently been nominated for chair of the Improvement and Development Agency, and faces the daunting task of convincing suspicious Conservatives that the agency is more than a tool for government-led modernisation. He has extensive business experience and is currently chair of a fund management company. Mr Barrow entered local politics in 1997, rising swiftly to become deputy leader of Surrey's Tory group. He is tipped for the top because of his grasp of figures. One friend describes him as a 'numbers whiz-kid' who takes a keen interest in local government finance.


Liz Minkin

Executive board member, Leeds City Council

As chair of Leeds' planning committee from 1992-94, Liz Minkin has been heavily involved with the city's remarkable rejuvenation. Now executive board member for development and sustainability, she plans to increase the involvement of local people with the council. She is a member of the Yorkshire and Humberside regional assembly and sits on the region's Euro forum. Described by one observer as 'extremely competent', she is tipped to go further.


Geoff Knight

Member, Lancaster City Council

Geoff Knight is a leading LGA independent, already deputy chair of the association's tourism executive and tipped as a future group leader. He has played an important role in building up the power of the independent group in Lancaster, acting as election agent during the 1999 local election which saw the size of the council's independent group more than double to 22 members. Mr Knight hopes to help organise other independent groups in the north-west in a bid to 'move national politics out of the local authority picture'.

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