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All change at Malvern Hills as leader Phil Grove hands over reins
5:20pm Friday 18th May 2012 in News
THERE’S a bitter-sweet end to the planning saga which divided Tenbury for one prominent political player in the town – while for another it’s just sweet.
Councillors Phil Grove, pictured left and Tony Penn, right, will have very different perspectives on their appointment to two of the most important portfolios on Malvern Hills District Council Phil Grove will have to bounce back having stepped down after three years as leader of the controlling Conservative group.
He was the longest serving leader with three years in office and had seen the council face the challenge of a 27 per cent funding cut.
The leader decided to step down ahead of the meeting of the controlling group where his position was expected to come under pressure.
“Being the longest serving leader has been a huge challenge,” said Coun Grove.
“Despite a reduction of 27 per cent in the central government grant all public front lines services have been maintained.
“Malvern Hills District Council has become a leaner and fitter organisation and is recognised as one of the best performing councils in the country.
“Relinquishing the reins now will help to maintain continuity at Malvern Hills and allow me to pursue further opportunities.”
For Phil Grove 2012 has been a difficult year with the closure of the Teme Bridge generating criticism of a lack of support from some traders.
He was also under fire for his stance on the Tesco supermarket in Tenbury where he made what some regarded as an unconvincing speech against the scheme at the key planning meeting.
But he has been offered a lifeline by the new council leader David Hughes who has asked Phil Grove to take on the key economic development portfolio.
His fellow Tenbury councillor Tony Penn has been elevated from the chairman of the northern area planning committee to take on the planning portfolio.
“I am delighted and was certainly not expecting this,” said Coun Penn.
“It had been my hope to hang on as chairman of the committee but I am not anticipated being offered the full planning brief.”
Gill Farmer who sits for the Teme Valley moves from the chairman of the licensing committee to replace Tony Penn as chairman of the northern area planning committee.
But Tony Penn emerged well from the Tesco debate where he led the charge to get the scheme approved.
His approach to the project, including a highly effective speech in favour of the supermarket and a strong defence of planning officers even won the grudging admiration of opponents of the development.
Despite being divided over Tesco Phil Grove and Tony Penn have worked closely together on projects in Tenbury including attempts to reduce the impact of flooding and the new toilets in Market Street.