THE leader of Sunderland Conservative group is stepping down from the council after 10 years of representing the St Chad’s ward.
Councillor Robert Oliver has decided to go back to full-time teaching and will not stand for election again when his term comes to an end in May.
The 42-year-old, of Lakeside Village, was first elected on to Sunderland City Council in 2004. He was re-elected in 2006 and again in 2010.
Coun Oliver has been the Conservative group’s education spokesman since he became a councillor, and has been group leader for the past three years, preceded by a year as deputy.
Born in Herrington, Coun Oliver went to university in Manchester before taking up his first teaching role in London.
But it was during a year spent in South America that his interest in local government was sparked. He was working on behalf of Raleigh International in a small town in Patagonia, which involved working with the local council and mayor. “It sparked my interest in politics,” he said.
“I have found it very, very interesting. I’ve enjoyed being the education spokesman as well.
“You really find out how the city works and what challenges people have in their lives.
“I’ve really enjoyed the council debates. We’ve had some quite raucous council meetings, debating policies, but it is better that these occur in the council chamber than behind closed doors.
“I hope I’ve had a constructive relationship with other councillors in other parties and, although we’ve disagreed in public, behind the scenes we worked well together.”
He says he is most proud of the part he has played in relation to the new bridge, the City Deal and Nissan.
Coun Oliver, who went part-time when he became group leader in 2004, is going to concentrate on teaching history and politics full-time at a school in Newcastle.
Keith O’Brien is going to stand for the Conservative Party in St Chad’s. It is not yet clear who will take over as group leader.