WINCHESTER council leader Keith Wood has today announced he is standing down.

Cllr Wood issued a statement saying he would not be seeking re-election in his ward of Sparsholt in May.

He will remain leader of the council but is standing down as leader of the Conservative group once an election for a successor can be organised.

He said: “I do not intend to stand again for election in May.  My wife is not in good health and it would not be sensible for me to seek another term.”

Cllr Wood said: “It has been a privilege to lead the Council in the past two years.  I am grateful for the support and advice I have received from councillors, officers and the public not least in dealing with the floods.

“I am proud of the council’s achievement in maintaining high-quality services for the people of the Winchester district while freezing council tax and supporting the local economy through difficult times.

“There are several major schemes coming forward which will do much to resolve the Council’s longer-term financial problems. Winchester has become one of local government’s success stories and has succeeded in blending the historic environment with a vibrant economy which has made it such a popular place to live.”

In recent months Cllr Wood has been embroiled in controversy over the future of the River Park leisure Centre. Initial plans to expand onto River Park have strongly opposed.

Two Tory councillors, Jamie Scott and Derek Green, have defected to the Lib Dems, amking the council hung, with no overall control.