WARNINGS that Ryedale District Council has no long-term future were given by its former leader Keith Knaggs last week when he announced that he and his wife, Vivienne – both Conservative councillors – were resigning.

The retired accountant, who gave up the leadership of the council and the Conservative group six weeks ago, when he said he had believed he no longer enjoyed the confidence of his fellow party councillors, said: “I don’t believe that authorities like Ryedale have a future in their present form.”

He said it was time “for everyone to move forward”, but Mr Knaggs said he had no intention of returning to frontline politics and had ruled out seeking election to North Yorkshire County Council which, he said, had been speculated.

Mr Knaggs, who represented the Ryedale South West ward, said: “Since standing down as leader of the council, it has become clear that the Conservative group has not found any particular role for me, and that I’m not one of nature’s backbenchers.

“It was disconcerting to be told that the constituency office was stating, without checking with me, that I was going to resign at last week’s council meeting. This deliberate destabilisation is a factor.

“There is a tradition of Conservative ex-leaders behaving badly – glowering at the back like Ted Heath or storming off to sit under another label. These options do not appeal.”

Mr Knaggs said that he was anxious to see the planning scheme for the injured jockeys centre approved at last Tuesday’s planning committee – hence the reason for not announcing his resignation until the following day.

Mr Knaggs said he believed his intervention on the issue “made a difference” after the charity had been “so discouraged by the initial negative re-action that they were prepared to go elsewhere”.

“Now we’ve got a good result on the scheme, it is in the best interests of my constituents that I make way for fresh blood,” he said.

Mr Knaggs thanked his supporters and constituents as well as councillors and staff for working with him over the past 22 years.

Mrs Knaggs, a retired headteacher mistress, who has been a member of the district council for two years, was previously a member of North Yorkshire County Council, and represented Pickering at Ryedale House.

The double blow to the Conservative group at Ryedale House means that the party will lose overall control if it does not hold on to the seats.

Mrs Knaggs said some members of the Conservative group, including she and her husband, had wanted to seek closer relations with other authorities in North Yorkshire. “But opponents viewed it as becoming part of a unitary authority by the back door,” she added.

In her career in local government, Mrs Knaggs has been a leading spokesman on care of older people and the district council’s representative on the Rural Commission.

The couple’s resignations are now expected to result in by-elections being held on the same day as the county council elections on Thursday, May 2.