COUN Keith Knaggs will step down as leader of Ryedale District Council and of the controlling Conservative group after 17 years at the helm this week.

His successor, Coun Linda Cowling, is due to be elected at the full council meeting tomorrow (Thursday).

Coun Knaggs will continue as a back-bench member.

He announced his plans to step down last month because, he said, it had become clear that he no longer possessed the full confidence of the group as a result of personality clashes rather than major policy differences.

“Anyone who takes on the role of leader of the council is accepting a huge public commitment if it’s to be done properly,” said Coun Knaggs.

“To succeed, you need the active support of your colleagues and must not take them for granted.

“It is very important for a small council like Ryedale that the leader is effective.”

Coun Cowling, who represents, Pickering West Ward, has been a member of the council for 22 years and is also chairman of the commissioning board and member champion for waste management.