Norfolk County Council’s leader, Cliff Jordan, is standing down with immediate effect, due to serious ill-health.

In a personal statement, he said: “Over the past few months I’m sure you are aware that I been suffering from health issues. To that end I have been undergoing tests to determine the cause of this.

“Yesterday, I received the devastating news that I have been diagnosed with lung cancer. Following this I have come to a decision that I will be stepping down from my role as leader of Norfolk County Council and as a county councillor to concentrate on my treatment and recovery.

“I would like to thank each and every one of you for your dedication, support and friendship over my time serving in local government. During this time the Conservatives have achieved great things and I look forward to watching the seeds that we have sewn grow and prosper to make Norfolk the best it can be.

“I step down safe in the knowledge that we have charted the right course and I know that you will continue to share my vision for doing what’s best for the people of Norfolk. “

The county council’s deputy leader, Councillor Alison Thomas, will serve as acting leader until a full council meeting is held to elect Cllr Jordan’s successor.

Cllr Thomas said: ““I have had the pleasure of working with Cliff Jordan as his deputy for the past three years and consider him not just a colleague but one of my closest friends.

“Keeping him in order has been one of my greatest challenges – most especially, persuading him to wear a tie on appropriate occasions! On a more serious note, I wish to acknowledge the huge amount of work and energy Cliff has put into tackling the challenges the council faces, whilst always ensuring his personal priority of caring for the county is at the heart of everything we do. Cliff has cared so much for the county, now it is time for the county to care for him.

“I will miss working with him and the humour he brought to our everyday deliberations, but will do my utmost to ensure his vision and aspirations for the county are delivered. “

Cllr Jordan has been a councillor since 1991 – first on Breckland District Council and then, from 2001, on the county council. He became leader of the county council’s Conservative group in March 2015 and leader of the county council from May 2016 onwards.

Cllr Jordan served on Breckland District Council from May 1991 till May 2015 and led the authority from 1998 to 2005.

Under Cllr Jordan’s leadership, the county council has secured a number of achievements, including: improvements to children’s services, which led Ofsted to end its intervention; completion of the NDR, which has improved journeys and will aid jobs and housing; securing investment in Great Yarmouth’s Third River Crossing; and achieving 95 per cent superfast broadband coverage in the county.

He summed up his approach on the council’s website, which says: “My administration is dedicated to a methodical but rapid improvement in the services we give to our residents.

“My team was elected under the banner of caring for our county – we care about our residents and the services we provide to them. Caring means doing the best we can, even as we have to make savings of £125m.

“In four years’ time, we’ll still play a massive role in Norfolk – including caring for the most vulnerable, repairing our roads and working with partners to attract jobs. We’ll just do this with fewer buildings, joining up services, encouraging more people to contact us online and by generating money from commercial ventures, such as house-building. We’ll still have a big, positive impact on Norfolk’s life”.

Cliff Jordan has often been a controversial figure as a councillor, and provoked considerable hostility recently when he led his Conservative Group in awarding himself and other councillors a large pay increase while cutting public services provided by the council. Read our opinion piece from the height of this controversy here:

Labour Group Leader Steve Morphew said: ‘We wish Cliff a speedy and successful recovery. Whatever our differences we share a passion for Norfolk and I respect his commitment to what he believes in. Ill health is never the reason we want to see our opponents leave the political stage. I’ve known him a long time and I’m sure we’ll all miss him and it will take a while to get used to him not being around.’

A new Conservative Leader will face a tough challenge in restoring the reputation of the Tories on Norfolk County Council and there will no doubt be some fierce infighting over the next few days as the Tories settle on their new leader.