Conservatives choose a new leader

Coun Robert Oliver is the new leader of Sunderland Council's Conservative group.
Coun Robert Oliver is the new leader of Sunderland Council's Conservative group.
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SUNDERLAND’S top Tory has stepped down – leaving his deputy to take power.

Tony Morrissey has been replaced as leader of Sunderland Conservatives by Robert Oliver, who was his deputy and education spokesman.

Coun Morrissey, who represents Barnes, served only a year as leader after taking over from fellow Barnes councillor Lee Martin last May.

The leader’s replacement came after his party lost four seats to Labour in the May 5 council elections.

Coun Oliver, who represents St Chad’s, paid tribute to Coun Morrissey, who he said had “worked hard for the group during a challenging year”.

He added: “As leader it will be my duty to not only make clear the failings of the Labour council but also to promote the policies of the Coalition Government where they benefit the city.

“On the doorstep during the local elections it was clear that many residents felt that the city had missed out with the lack of development in the city centre a constant complaint.

“With Enterprise Zones, academies and welfare reform on the agenda, Sunderland has much to gain as it seeks to renew itself as a city which meets the aspiration of its residents.”

Coun Oliver, a teacher at a private school, was elected by Sunderland’s 14 Conservative councillors at the group’s annual general meeting.

Former leader Peter Wood, who represents St Michael’s, was elected deputy leader.

Coun Oliver said Coun Wood bring many years of experience to the role.

The Echo understands Coun Lee Martin made a bid to regain the leadership, but was defeated in a secret ballot.

Coun Martin hung on to his Barnes seat by just 93 votes on election night, despite Labour being confident of victory.

Coun Oliver and Coun Wood are still to choose their team of spokesmen.

Two of the Conservative group’s leading lights – housing spokesman Michael Wood and culture and leisure spokesman Graham Hall – lost their seats on election night.

@pressbench