Barbara quits as councillor and mayor but is set to take up new health post

Barbara Rice

BOROUGH Mayor Barbara Rice has announced she has quit local politics and her seat on Thurrock Council – forcing a by-election in her ward of Chadwell St Mary.

And she will also have to stand down as mayor with immediate effect – meaning deputy Mayor Cllr Terry Piccolo will step into the breach until the annual meeting.

Mrs Rice is believed to be about to take up a senior post with Thurrock Healthwatch, which means that she has to shed her public political allegiances.

Mrs Rice, who has served as a Chadwell councillor since 2010, had made no secret among acquaintances of the fact she would be standing down in recent weeks though it wasn’t too long ago that she was being talked about as a successor to group leader Cllr John Kent, who is planning to quit that role after May’s elections to concentrate on his general election campaign.

The likely candidate to take over as Labour group leader now appears to be Grays councillor Jane Pothecary.

Mrs Rice delayed her resignation as a councillor to ensure that the by-election can be held on the same day as other scheduled local ward elections – Thursday, 2 May. Protocol requires that, as she has stepped down voluntarily rather than losing her seat, her mayoral year of office ends immediately.

Mrs Rice’s resignation, plus the success of Conservative David Van Day in yesterday’s (Thursday, 22 March), Aveley and Uplands by-election, means that the Conservatives, have slightly strengthened their grip on the council.

There are now 23 Conservative councillors, 16 Labour and nine Independents. That means the Tories remain a minority administration, but only by two votes rather than the four they started yesterday with.

As well as former Cllr Rice’s seat, the seat currently occupied by Independent Cllr Russell Cherry will also be up for grabs in May. Cllr Cherry is believed to be planning to attempt to switch wards and contest the Little Thurrock Rectory seat.