SSDC Leader Ric Pallister announces decision to step down

South Somerset District Council Leader Ric Pallister has announced that he will be stepping down from his role this summer.

He told his fellow members and staff this morning (7 June) that having helped shape SSDC into an organisation that is fit for the future, he now wishes to see a new, strong voice continue that legacy.

Cllr Pallister, who has been district councillor for the Parrett ward for 19 years and has been Leader of SSDC for seven years, said he was not seeking re-election in May 2019 as he hoped to "encourage the next generation with fresh drive, energy and ideas to continue the really worthwhile role of representing the people of South Somerset".

He said: "I have reached the conclusion that the most important position in creating continuity for the Council, will be that of having a Leader in post over the months leading up to the May 2019 elections who will be looking ahead and planning for the future after those elections.  For that reason, I have taken the decision to step down as the Leader this summer and to seek Council's approval of a prospective successor at the next most appropriate Council meeting. 

"This is not a decision I have taken lightly, but I believe that through transformation and income generation in particular, my work is now done in helping shape SSDC into an organisation that is fit for the future and it is now time for those who intend to be a part of that future to take the Council forward."

Since being elected in 1999, the former Royal Navy officer and OBE recipient, has championed the causes of housing and accommodation for those most in need. He has also been involved, both locally and nationally, in gypsy and traveller issues through the Local Government Association.

He cites getting the Council to focus on health, homes, jobs and the environment as among his proudest achievements alongside his commitment to maintaining frontline services and his countywide role working for those affected by flooding in 2013 and 2014.

In recent years, he has led the implementation of SSDC's Transformation strategy, a visionary project which will modernise and future-proof the organisation to protect and improve the services the council delivers to its communities and customers.

It will make the council financially more sustainable, provide the ability to continuously improve and adapt in the future, while delivering increased income to support council services through a more commercial approach.

Cllr Pallister added: "The track is set, all key decisions have now been taken and from July, the Council will be steadily building towards the implementation of that change early in 2019.  

 "Ahead of us are other major issues which will bridge the election period in 2019; the debate over a potential re-organisation of Local Government in Somerset, and the future direction of the Heart of the South West Joint Committee with Devon. In both instances South Somerset will need continuity and a strong voice at the table to protect the very best interests of our residents.

"The last seven years as the Leader of the Council have been challenging but with the support and loyalty of some outstanding members of staff, elected members and partners, it has always been an enormous privilege. I believe that this Authority is in the most secure position and with the best and most exciting future prospects of any Council in Somerset and that is how I want it to remain."

South Somerset District Council's deputy leader, Jo Roundell Greene said: "I would like to take this opportunity to personally thank Ric Pallister for both the outstanding leadership and friendship he has provided as Leader of this council.

"Ric's enthusiasm and concern for those in greatest need has been paramount at all times.

"The scale of what he has achieved here can never be underestimated and the direction he had provided has doubtless improved the quality of life in South Somerset for thousands of people - and will continue to do so. Ric has been an inspirational leader and, thanks to him and the brilliant team we have here, we can look to the future with great optimism."

SSDC's Chief Executive Alex Parmley, said: "The role of Leader is often a challenging one and Ric has led SSDC during what is probably the most difficult time for local government ever.

"This has seen massive cuts in funding for all councils including SSDC. Ric has led the Members and Officers of the Council to embrace change and different ways of doing things with a view to protecting services for residents. During this time he has also maintained his focus on and passion for ensuring the best outcomes for South Somerset communities, advancing the interests of some of the most disadvantaged residents and in particular, trying to ensure everyone has access to quality homes, jobs and local environment. This drive and passion for delivering well for the people and communities we serve will be missed.

"However, we look forward to the Council now choosing a new Leader to continue to take SSDC forward and see through the changes and priority projects we have started."

The Liberal Democrat group at SSDC will now begin the process of selecting a new Leader and this decision will need to be approved by Full Council in the coming months.

Ric Pallister

Above: Councillor Ric Pallister