Tory leader is stepping down

Cllr Peter Pragnell
Cllr Peter Pragnell

A POPULAR and well-respected councillor is standing down as leader of his party.

Peter Pragnell became head of the Conservative group on Hastings Borough Council (HBC) back in 2005 – five years after winning his first seat on the local authority.

Then, following election success for the Tories, he became leader of HBC - a post he held until last year’s defeat to Labour.

However, after leading the opposition fight since that May loss, Cllr Pragnell has decided to call it a day and concentrate on representing voters in Conquest Ward.

He will officially step down at the party’s annual general meeting next month, with three or four councillors already in the frame to take over.

Among those expect to jostle for leadership are Cllr Pragnell’s current deputy Matthew Beaver, outspoken Ashdown councillor Rob Cooke and rising star Andrew Gurney, who represents Silverhill.

And it is partly because he believes the party will be left in good hands that Cllr Pragnell has decided to step aside.

Explain his decision to the Observer this week, he said: “It is time to refresh the leadership of the Conservatives on the council.

“It has been a privilege and an honour to lead the Conservatives for six years and together we achieved much while in control of the council. We have played our part in the ongoing regeneration of our town and in improving people’s lives here in Hastings. You just have to look around to see what we helped put into place.

“I am immensely proud of what we have achieved. I was the first Conservative leader to lead us to overall control of the council since the 1970s and I know that, with a new leader, we shall go onto greater things yet.

“I would like in particular to extend my thanks to those colleagues who served in my cabinet, especially my deputy, Cllr Beaver, for their hard work and support over the years.”

And Cllr Beaver was the first to pay tribute to the 51-year-old Charlton Athletic-mad football fan.

He said: “It is with great regret that Peter has chosen to stand down.

“As leader of the group there is much that has been achieved concerning the continued regeneration in Hastings and St Leonards.

“Whatever role he will play, I am totally confident that he will do so with his usual charm and dedication and continue to voice concerns on areas that he passionately cares about.

“We all wish him well in the coming years in everything that he chooses to do.”