The conservative leader of a Yorkshire city council has revealed that a lack of progress on regional devolution and the Government’s approach to Brexit influenced his decision to resign after little over a year in charge.
Ian Gillies said the support from his fellow Tories on CIty of York Council “has not been unanimous” since taking over from former leader David Carr, who was “de-throned” after a vote of no confidence from his own party.
And speaking publicly for the first time since announcing last month that he would be standing down at the May local elections, he said he had found it hard to keep local Conservatives, their Liberal Democrat coalition partners and council officers “onside”.
Coun Gillies said he had “done as much as I possibly can for the city” while leader, citing the outline approval for the £650m York Central scheme and progress on the city’s long-term planning blueprint, which is due to go before government inspectors.
The former police officer and city lord mayor told The Yorkshire Post: “I am happy I have achieved what I wanted to achieve, I think there is more frustration along the line.”
He added: “Part of it is Brexit and the way the Government is performing, which I am not enamoured with in any way, shape or form, and the lack of progress with the Yorkshire devolution side.
“It is time for someone else to take up that baton, hopefully the Conservatives but we are not getting very good returns on the doorstep from what I can gather. They are not going to other places, I think they are just not going to vote, is my worry.”
Coun Gillies is the latest Conservative in Yorkshire to raise concerns that the Government’s failure to make progress on Brexit would damage local prospects in the May elections.
The 73-year-old said: “I have been very proud to serve as leader and I have enjoyed it, but I seem to have too many people who I have to keep onside. We have coalition partners who I have to keep onside, the officers to a certain extent, they have to be listened to and take their views, they are the professionals, and my own group.
“To keep them all onside and get the agreement of everyone at certain times has been difficult. That is part of the job of the leader isn’t it?”
Coun Gillies will be standing down as a city councillor at the local elections on May 2 in York and said his plans for the future "are fairly liquid".
He said: "I am going to take a bit of a rest, I am going to watch some cricket over the summer period, I am a member of Yorkshire [County Cricket Club] and my granddaughter plays cricket for Yorkshire girls team, so I will be supporting her.
"I will be doing a bit of racing and taking stock, but I don't want to be put out to grass. I am still fairly active and my passion is for the City of York and Yorkshire, if anything comes along I can help with I will be more than happy to do so."
Deputy leader Stuart Rawlings said Coun Gillies had done a "fantastic job" leading the city council and agreed with his former leader’s views on devolution and Brexit.
He added: “It is incredibly frustrating on the lack of progress regarding regional devolution and I have no doubt that York and all of our region has lost out financially in not getting a devolution package sorted.
“Ian has done a fantastic job and has had some really big achievements and achieved long -term progress bringing better valued jobs to York.”
Discussing Brexit and the forthcoming local elections, he said: “Every Conservative member finds it disappointing the situation we are in. To have voted in the Brexit referendum three years ago now and not achieved a result is very disappointing.
“People are still passionate about the local issues and we hope to achieve a really good turn out for local democracy at the local elections and for the Conservatives, of course.”