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Leader of council insulted by the need for a ‘younger face’

Thursday, 25th April 2002.

Coun Derek Redhead says he had no choice but to step down as leader of St Edmundsbury Borough Council, after being told that someone younger was needed for the job.

Coun Redhead, 71, a retired farmer from Wickhambrook, resigned as leader and as a member of the ruling Conservative group on the council. He will continue to serve as an Independent Conservative.

Deputy leader Margaret Warwick has stepped in as acting leader until a new leader is chosen. lxworth councillor John Griffiths, son of former Haverhill MP Eldon Griffiths, is being tipped as his successor.

Coun Redhead said he was initially angry, then saddened by what had happened but felt he had no option but to resign after being approached by a small number of Conservative members.

“I did not have a lot of option really. I was approached by a small delegation of the Policy and Resources Committee. They said quite openly ‘Derek you have done a great job, but if we are going to have any chance of winning the 2003 election we have got to have a younger, prettier face’.

“I cannot do anything about my face, it is God-given, or my age. I think the suggestion is insulting —the electorate are interested in what someone tries to do for them, not what they look like.

“I am sad because there are procedures to follow. I had said I would not stand as leader again after the election, I know people want a change. But we have had three leaders in three years and I have been challenged three times. It is damaging to the council — the public must wonder what on earth is going on.

“I am disappointed, especially from the Haverhill angle, because I have put a lot of effort into getting Haverhill a better deal from the borough council.”

Coun Redhead said he would continue his 53-year membership of the Conservative Party and follow the party line as far as possible. He felt problems within the Conservative group arose from those members elected in 1999 and said he could not support Coun Griffiths as leader because he was not decisive enough.

Coun Griffiths, 48, said he was saddened by Derek Redhead’s departure but had not been
Involved in any moves to persuade him to resign.

He felt it had been Coun Redheads decision to resign and the party had to move on and chose a new leader.

He said he would be prepared take on the role if he was asked.

“I am sorry that Derek has resigned but the important thing is to make sure that the council continues to do a good job for St Edmundsbury.

“I know Haverhill well, I spent a lot of time there canvassing for my father and it is a very different place and doing very well now, Coun Griffiths said.

Haverhill Weekly News

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