Former Dudley Tory leader looks back at his time at the top

10:43am Thursday 7th February 2013

AS Dudley's Conservatives decide on a new leader their former chief has been talking about his time at the top.

Cllr Les Jones stood down last week, bringing a dramatic end to his tenure as leader of the group, which lost its grip on Dudley Council in an election night bloodbath last year.

The authority had been under outright Tory control since 2004, but 2012's election saw Conservative councillors removed from seats across the UK in a voters' backlash against the coalition in Westminster.

Having moved up from the deputy leader's job in 2011, after the then leader Anne Millward lost her seat on the council, cllr Jones led the council for a year packed with difficult political decisions.

Cllr Jones said: "I like to think I bring to the table a pragmatic approach to do the right thing by the people of the borough. Other people will judge whether I succeeded or not.

"We had to find £38m worth of savings over three years without swingeing cuts to frontline services."

Apart from public spending cuts the 57-year-old Pedmore councillor also took the lead on a number of high profile policies.

He said: "I was disappointed about the city status bid, the purpose was for the borough to get extra funding. I also believed we had a solution to the mosque issue in Dudley.

"We also have a lot of regeneration; I am particularly proud of Stourbridge with Tesco.

"When I became a councillor in 1999 there were big plans for the Angel Triangle which would have finished off Stourbridge for good."

In 2011 he shocked a full meeting of the authority by unexpectedly standing down a controversial decision to close the New Bradley Hall Care home in Kingswinford after a powerful protest campaign.

In tribute to Dudley people who give up their time to benefit others, he said: "What I found particularly interesting was meeting voluntary organisations and seeing what a wonderful wealth of good will there is out there."

Cllr Jones has no intention of leaving the council and would not rule out a return to the shadow cabinet but says it is unlikely he would make a third attempt for a nomination to stand for election as an MP.

His long-time political adversary, Dudley Council's leader, Labour's cllr David Sparks, said: "Les was a worthy opponent with a clear ideology as a Tory yet at the same time was prepared to be pragmatic and take common sense decisions for the good of the borough."

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