The leader of the Local Government Association Conservative group is facing a challenge from the leader of Central Bedfordshire Council in a contest in which the victor could emerge as favourite to be the association’s next chair.
Incumbent David Simmonds, Hillingdon LBC’s deputy leader, will be up against the East of England unitary’s top councillor James Jamieson in a ballot of Tory group leaders.
Cllr Simmonds said: “Conservatives are a strong team and by working together we have seen consistently good election results, maintaining our position as the largest party in local government and the dominant force at the LGA.”
Cllr Jamieson declined to comment to LGC, adding that the two leaders had agreed to keep the internal ballot “amicable”.
Warwickshire CC leader Izzi Seccombe will stand unopposed as Tory group deputy leader, having come to the end of her term of office as the LGA’s community wellbeing board. Meanwhile, Nick Rushton, leader of Leicestershire CC, and David Finch, leader of Essex CC, are in the running for the county council position.
For the group’s unitary position, Paul Bettison, leader of Bracknell Forest BC, is running against Wokingham BC leader, Charlotte Haitham Taylor.
Due to the district-focused make-up of the councils facing elections in 2019, it is considered unlikely that Labour will overturn the Tories’ leadership of the LGA next year. Under Conservative group rules the current LGA chair Lord Porter’s term of office ends at the organisation’s conference next year, meaning this year’s Tory group elections are likely to herald the frontrunners for the top job in 2019.
The results of this year’s ballot will be announced at the LGA conference in July. Nominations for the Conservative group positions closed last week and the ballot will run from 15 June to midday on 28 June. The ballot of Tory group leaders operates under a formula in which their vote is weighted to take into account their area’s population and the proportion of councillors who are Conservative in their area.