THE leader of Winchester City Council has stood down, it has been announced this afternoon.

Conservative Cllr Robert Humby has issued a statement confirming his decision to quit as leader following decisions made over the controversial Silver Hill scheme.

It is the second dramatic resignation over the handling of the scheme after Labour's Chris Pines stepped down as chairman of Winchester City Council's overview and scrutiny committee.

In a statement, he said: "Over the last week, I have reflected carefully on my position as Leader of the Council.

"I have come to the conclusion that the time has now come for me to step aside.

"I stand by the decisions I and the Cabinet made on Silver Hill. They were taken after consulting with officers and taking external legal advice.

"I think it is also important to remember that the majority of decisions on Silver Hill were taken long before I was Leader.

"Nevertheless, I was Leader when the Court decision was handed down and so must take responsibility for that judgement.

"I have always sought to act in the best interests of the City. I believe it is now in the best interests of Winchester and the Council for me to stand aside to allow a new Leader to take matters forward.

"I hope this will allow for a new spirit of co-operation, and in particular allow the Council to set a budget at its meeting on Thursday.

"I have been proud to lead the City Council and wish my successor the very best."

Daily Echo:

Monday's overview and scrutiny before Cllr Chris Pines walked out as chairman

Cllr Pines' dramatic walk-out at the start of Monday’s meeting marked the first resignation at the Guildhall since a High Court judge ruled that the Conservative-led council acted unlawfully over the £165 million development.

An independent review of the case is being prepared by city bosses.

But a comprehensive inspection of council process and decision-making is required to restore public trust, the meeting heard.

Announcing his decision to step down, Cllr Pines, a former Winchester mayor, said he expected the committee to “play its full part in scrutinising” the Silver Hill review.

“However, personally,” he said, “I feel that I no longer have the support of my colleagues and it is therefore with regret that I have come to the conclusion it is in the best interests in the council that I should resign as chair.”

“I will decide later whether I wish to remain a member of council.”

The meeting, chaired after the resignation by Liberal Democrat Cllr Simon Cook, heard politically-charged debate of the council’s 2015/16 budget, set to be determined at a critical summit on Thursday.

Cllr Martin Tod, a Liberal Democrat, branded the Tory administration and budget “complacent” and called for a “clear” financial pledge to re-engage residents with major projects.

He said: “It’s not just the Silver Hill project that needs to change – it’s the council that needs to change.

“We need to change how we manage major projects, we need to change how we consult and engage with local people, we need to change how we work with developers and stop being so weak, particularly on affordable housing.

“And we need to change also how we scrutinise the cabinet. I think Cllr Pines was right to resign. I think the Labour party have totally failed in their role of leading the scrutiny committee and standing up to the Conservative party.”

Tory councillor Patricia Stallard accused Cllr Tod of political “grandstanding”.

She said: “Clearly you and I have attended entirely different meetings this evening, because I have heard some extremely pertinent comments and criticisms from both sides of the table and I think this committee, and this administration, is anything but complacent.”

It comes at an awkward time for civic chiefs, with Thursday’s full council meeting set to be complicated by motions to bring down Conservative leader Cllr Rob Humby from both Labour and the Lib Dems.