THE leader of Salisbury City Council is stepping down next month after losing a vote of no confidence. 

Speaking to the Journal, Councillor Jeremy Nettle said he has been "unable to heal the long standing rift within the Conservative Group", which came to a head after the People Friendly Salisbury (PFS) project was announced. 

Cllr Nettle, who has been council leader since January 2019, said it had been "a real pleasure" to lead the council, but that "regrettably" he will be standing down at the next full council meeting in November.

He added: "I am immensely proud of the officers and those councillors that genuinely want to make a difference to the city from all political parties".

"It has been an incredibly difficult and an unprecedented period for both residents and businesses; [with the] Salisbury Poisonings and now through Covid-19, which saw some extraordinary support from the local community".

Cllr Nettle will remain as a city councillor for Fisherton and Bemerton Village.

Under Cllr Nettle's stewardship, Salisbury City Council received the runner-up award for Council of the Year at the National Association of Local Councils (NALC) Star Council Awards in October 2019.

Cllr Nettle has also received individual awards - in March 2020 he received a Certificate of Commendation from Her Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant for the County of Wiltshire for outstanding public service during the nerve agent attacks.

He said: "Sadly, it seems that delivering these high standards of services that have been recognised through winning awards is not enough."

Last month, Cllr Nettle rejected claims of a split in the council, following disagreements over the PFS project, as well as disagreements over plans for the city at Christmas.

The city council has been publicly split over the PFS scheme, and have not had the opportunity to vote on it at any committee or full council meeting.

Cllr Nettle says that the emergency governance structure that had to be put into place during lockdown may have "disenfranchised a number of Conservative councillors who may not have felt involved in the decision-making process".

"To those [cllrs]", he said, "I would remind them, that we are a parish council and not Westminster", and that as a leader of the council he have tried to reflect the views from all political parties.

Cllr Nettle said: "I am extremely grateful for the immense support I have received from stakeholders, community groups, residents and businesses.

"I know that Wiltshire Council’s proposal for Salisbury People Friendly Streets will be divisive within the community, however, I would ask councillors and residents to give this experimental trial a fair hearing and wait to see if it can enable improvement of our city centre.

“I can report that I am leaving my successor and the administration in a sound financial position given the circumstances and wish them luck".