HAMBLETON District Council’s leader Neville Huxtable has announced he is to step down from his post later this year.

In a brief statement before the district’s full council meeting in Northallerton this afternoon (Tuesday, February 19), the leader of the ruling Conservative group told councillors of his intention to quit his post. He said he made his decision for “personal reasons”.

Councillor Huxtable told councillors: “For personal reasons I today announce my intention to stand down as leader of Hambleton District Council at the annual general meeting on May 14.

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“It’s my intention to retire to the back benches.”

The matter was not discussed again during the meeting.

Speculation over Coun Huxtable’s possible departure has been mounting over the last two months, since a reported clash between Tory members over the introduction of car parking charges in the district.

The move will trigger a leadership election amongst the council’s Conservative group, who will take over the reins from May.

Those in the frame as potential successors include Councillor Mark Robson and Councillor Ron Kirk.

Coun Huxtable has led the Conservative-controlled authority for the last three years, after being selected to lead the Tories on the authority in 2010. He has represented the Topcliffe ward, near Thirsk, for 14 years.

The retired farmer, ex-police officer and businessman moved to Hambleton from Kent 12 years ago, settling near Thormanby, with his wife, Lorna.

He has also served as a North Yorkshire County Councillor, but will not be standing for re-election to the county council at its May elections.

In a statement released by Coun Huxtable, he said he was leaving the council in a “very healthy position” saying it had the third lowest council tax in the country for a district council. He also cited the council’s apprentice scheme for young unemployed people and a new £100,000 community fund for local projects as schemes.

He said: “I am very proud to have taken Hambleton through some tough and exciting times.

“But I am leaving the authority in a very healthy position.”