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Craven District Council Leader stands down

Councillor Chris Knowles - Fitton (Conservative) is to stand down as Leader of Craven District Council. He informed members about his decision during last Tuesday's Council meeting. The reason for his resignation is a house move to Devon.

He told the Council: "Following our group meeting last week it's been agreed that Richard Foster shall succeed me as leader of the Conservative group and I will stand down as Council Leader on the 30th October but remain a ward councillor until May elections next year."

After Councillor Knowles-Fitton stands down on the 30th October, Councillor Richard Foster will, in his role as Deputy Leader, become the operational Leader of the Council while still remaining the Deputy. An election for the next Leader will be called at the next full Council meeting on December 2nd.

Cllr Knowles-Fitton was first elected to represent the Bolton Abbey ward in 2000 and, following the then Leader's sudden illness, elected Leader 6 months later. His first challenge as Leader was to steer the district through the virulent Foot & Mouth outbreak of 2001.

Following the Boundary Commission changes in 2002, he led the Conservative group in opposition. In 2008 the Conservative group regained control of the Council at a time when the Council was in financial dire straits. As the Leader and describing his role as the stick that poked the fire, Chris Knowles - Fitton helped steer Craven District Council back to a financially healthy state.

He considers this to be a highlight during his time as Leader, and said: "The Council has made the transition from an authority almost subject to government intervention in 2008, with its finances in a parlous state, to its present situation of being on a sound financial footing, looking for growth opportunities, proud of its recovery and determined to do better."

During those six years, Craven has raised its profile. Skipton High Street was voted Best High Street of the Year 2009 by the Academy of Urbanism. In 2012, The Guardian newspaper named Skipton as the best place to retire in the UK, because of the quality of life in Craven. And in 2014, Skipton was named 'Best Place to Live in Britain' by The Sunday Times. Major events, such as the hosting of the 2012 Olympic Torch Relay and last summer's Tour de France have also showcased the district's strengths.

Meanwhile, the Council has been restructured into a lean organisation to cope with the financial challenges. Major projects have been delivered, such as bringing the majority of Council services under one roof in Belle Vue Square in 2011, the introduction of alternate weekly waste collections and improvement of recycling collection facilities, and the transformation of Craven Pool and Fitness Centre into a revenue cost neutral service. For the last four years Craven District Council Tax levels have not increased, further proof that the Leader leaves behind a Council that is in good shape.

Chris Knowles - Fitton said: "Craven has a huge future not least because of the ambition of its members and officers; the Town Hall regeneration in an era of austerity is a magnificent on-going project and, like the recent architectural award for the Albion Place development a further testament to the widespread ethos of always pushing forward. Craven's prudent management of its finances means it can face its future with growing confidence."

Press Release date 9th October 2014