FORMER Sheffield Council chief Paul Scriven has resigned his leadership of the Liberal Democrat group, four days after his party was swept from power in a resounding Labour landslide.
Coun Scriven refused to blame national party leader Nick Clegg for last week’s devastating electoral results, and insisted Sheffield “remains instinctively Liberal”.
He said: “I have thought long and hard about this decision but, after nearly a decade as party leader, it’s time to move on and pass the baton to someone else.”
The 45-year-old, who will remain a ward councillor in Broomhill, broke the news of his resignation to party colleagues at a meeting last night.
Next Monday, at the group’s AGM, they will elect a new leader to start the hard task of rebuilding the party and regaining the nine seats they lost last week.
Early favourites to take over from Coun Scriven, who has led the party since 2002, include cabinet members Shaffaq Mohammed, Colin Ross and Andy Sangar, although it was not clear last night if all three will stand.
Coun Scriven offered his successor his ‘full support’ and added: “The Liberal Democrats remain a strong force in this city. The people of Sheffield remain instinctively Liberal, and we will get there.
“Nick Clegg is trying to put out a financial fire started by Labour.”
He said he had not decided what to do next, but has interests in several businesses and public projects, including schemes abroad: “I will now focus on being a councillor in my ward, and I want to be able to pursue other interests.
“It’s also time for my partner, family and friends to come first.”
He added: “I love the city of Sheffield which I have come to adopt as my home.
“As the son of a dustbin man from an estate in Huddersfield, it is hard to believe that I had the honour of leading this great city for a wonderful three years.
“The Liberal Democrats hand Sheffield onto Labour as a city that is a better place to live, work, invest, study and visit than it was three years ago.”
The last 12 months have been the most tumultuous of Coun Scriven’s 11 years on the council.
Last May he was just 165 votes off being elected to MP for Sheffield Central and then his party’s popularity was hit hard as Mr Clegg became the public face of the Coalition’s cutbacks.
Last week’s elections demolished the Lib Dems’ standing on Sheffield Council, leaving them with just 32 seats to Labour’s 49.
Deputy PM Mr Clegg said today: “Paul is a good friend and I am disappointed to be losing his skills as group leader. Under his direction Sheffield has made amazing progress, and remains a strong voice on the national and international stage.
“His efforts have turned around schools, improved green spaces and ensured businesses prosper.”
New Labour council leader, Coun Julie Dore, said: “I would like to wish Coun Scriven well for the future. I hope that this change will bring a more constructive relationship between the two parties and whoever is the new leader will use their role to put the interests of the city first.”