Stuart Dark to stand down as Leader of the Conservative Group

Stuart Dark to stand down as Leader of the Conservative Group

"The time is right for me to move on to a new and exciting chapter." Stuart Dark

Town and Around can confirm that Stuart Dark MBE will be standing down as the Leader of the Conservative Group on the Borough Council at their AGM on the 18th April, having notified his party colleagues at the Borough and County of his intention to do so several weeks ago. A new Leader will be being selected at this meeting. It is understood that this is because he may be moving onto a new role elsewhere. He will remain the Borough Councillor for Snettisham as a 'backbencher'.

Mr Dark was the Leader of the Borough Conservative Group for 3 years, having been brought into Cabinet to lead the Borough's response to the emerging Covid pandemic due to his strategic and operational experience in 'emergency planning' in the police service.

As the Conservative Leader he then led the Council for two years until the May 2023 election when the Independent Partnership took control of the Borough Council supported by the Labour group as there was no overall majority. Mr Dark has since led the Conservatives as the principal opposition group.

Stuart Dark said when approached by us: “It’s been one of the great honours of my life to serve as both West Norfolk's Leader and the Leader of the Conservative Group, but the time is right for me to move on to a new and exciting chapter personally and to support our new group leader.

“There is a Chinese proverb that says, 'may you live in interesting times' and my tenure in Cabinet and as Borough Leader have certainly been that; I was in lead roles locally throughout a global pandemic, during a war in mainland Europe, a cost-of-living crisis and for the death of our longest serving monarch and the proclamation of our new King.

“I have worked alongside three great Mayors, committed cabinet members, councillors and council staff, wonderful NHS staff (both during the pandemic and securing a new hospital) and with great partners, charities and volunteers delivering for West Norfolk.

WEB Mart

“Along the way I've even found myself reciting an old English text on a dodgem ride to launch a several hundred year old Mart!.

I was told always try your very best and I hope that others in our great community think that I did just that as I now step back.”

Reacting to the news, former Leader of the Labour Group Charles Joyce said: “ A one-time Metropolitan police officer Stuart is more George Dixon than Robocop.

“Without a song and dance as council leader he began building bridges with partner agencies and across political lines.

“Stuart ended the folly of building on a rare alkaline bog in Gaywood, galvanised the Borough Council's opposition to the proposed Wisbech incinerator, and played a crucial pivotal role in getting the finances approved for a new general accident and emergency hospital.


“Working closely with the NHS, Stuart led the Borough Council's response to the pandemic helping to ensure vaccinations were widely available earlier than almost anywhere else in the country and whenever possible local people and businesses were supported financially.

“Stuart did things that many believe a Conservative would not do such as quietly putting money to foodbanks, community projects and organisations involved in supporting victims of domestic violence.

“He did things he didn't have to do including proposing Labour's Margaret Wilkinson to be West Norfolk Mayor.

“And throughout John Collop's illness Stuart showed a huge streak of human decency that is so often lacking in many others who seek political rank.”

Cllr Alexandra Kemp said: " Stuart Dark's tenure as Leader was characterised by courtesy, politeness, a willingness to listen and a forensic approach to tackling issues.

“Stuart's ability to listen to the opposition resulted in an early Council steer against the Wisbech Incinerator, more community sports activities in deprived wards, and respect for the community need to keep Hardings Way free of traffic. The Adminstration must now take all the Hardings Way sites out of the Local Plan.

“It was under Stuart's Administration that the Council commissioned a Feasibility Study, to make the West Lynn Ferry Landing Stage safe, accessible and disability friendly; this must now be progressed."

Chief Executive of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Alice Webster said: “Stuart has been very supportive of us all at QEH during recent years including working with us during COVID-19 and in respect of our bid for a new hospital. Much of what he has done has been behind the scenes however it has always been with the community at its heart.”

WEB Stuart with S Barclay

And from James Wild MP: “Stuart was a highly effective Leader of the borough council and Conservative group who I worked with closely on the successful QEH campaign, the Town Deal and securing other major investments, promoting West Norfolk, and ensuring a warm welcome for Ukrainians seeking refuge here.

“Always straightforward to deal with, his commitment to our area was shown as he led the response to Covid helping support the most vulnerable residents, protect jobs and businesses, and ensure we bounced back locally. I wish him well in his important new role with the county council.”

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