It has developed a reputation for being Norfolk's most cantankerous council, known for unruly debate and cross-party feuds. 

But for its new leader, this is what makes the authority stand out from its more "stale" counterparts. 

Last week Alistair Beales took over the reins of West Norfolk Council from Terry Parish when he mounted a successful leadership challenge after just over a year of Mr Parish's administration being in charge.

Eastern Daily Press: Alistair Beales after winning the Massingham with Castle Acre ward on West Norfolk Council at the 2023 electionsAlistair Beales after winning the Massingham with Castle Acre ward on West Norfolk Council at the 2023 elections (Image: Chris Bishop)

The authority is unique in Norfolk through being the only one led by an Independent group, which was formed following last year's May elections.

As a coalition made up of former Labour, Green Party and Conservative members and staunch independents, the varied views can make it a challenging ship to sail.

However, for Mr Beales - who was previously a senior Tory and deputy leader himself - this is part of what makes this unique council an exciting authority to lead, free from the shackles of party politics that allows for them to focus purely on bettering the lives of people in west Norfolk.

Eastern Daily Press: King's Lynn's historic town hallKing's Lynn's historic town hall (Image: Newsquest)

He said: "Most Norfolk councils usually have a single party with a majority but this can lead to more stale proceedings.

"It is true that some WNC meetings can be quite lively but even the most interesting of comments are of value.

"This shows democracy is alive and well here. Although we'd prefer to be known for being robust, rather than cantankerous."

Eastern Daily Press: Terry Parish, former leader of West Norfolk CouncilTerry Parish, former leader of West Norfolk Council (Image: West Norfolk Council)


The past year has seen the council split by rows, with the Conservative group frequently at loggerheads with the ruling independents.

While Mr Parish was himself the subject of scathing criticism from former senior members of his cabinet, who went on to quit to form a new political group last year - the 'Progressives'.

The Conservative and Labour groups have also seen a change in leadership in recent months.

Long-serving Tory Stuart Dark has been replaced by former council leader Brian Long. Charles Joyce, leader of the Labour group, also stepped down to be replaced by Francis Bone

Mr Beales has likened the past year to a "Punch and Judy show", with meetings often descending into clashes between councillors.

 But he hopes he can bring in a new era for the council.

Eastern Daily Press: Alistair Beales with his daughter Poppy, who is currently studying at Yale and plays for the field hockey team as a centre forwardAlistair Beales with his daughter Poppy, who is currently studying at Yale and plays for the field hockey team as a centre forward (Image: Alistair Beales)



"There is a huge appetite for change, from councillors and staff. Our chief executive Lorraine Gore is retiring along with other senior roles," said Mr Beales.

"This offers a perfect time to review our policies and push for more modernisation, more efficiency and less red tape."

Mr Beales believes his career in estate management has given him a wealth of experience that will help in his new role and managing finances is a key priority.

"It is a big concern. In three or four years' time we will likely face a deficit if we do not get more funding.

"One of the biggest issues is the amount of cash that goes to the Internal Drainage Board - 40pc of our council tax income.

"This needs to change".

READ MORE: Bid for new Norfolk railway station in King's Lynn unveiled

Under his leadership, he also plans to review council services to ensure they are run efficiently and cost-effectively, including Alive, which delivers its leisure facilities.

While he is yet to announce who will become his new cabinet members, Simon Ring has become the deputy leader, having previously been the portfolio holder for tourism. 

Eastern Daily Press: Views across King's Lynn from the MinsterViews across King's Lynn from the Minster (Image: Newsquest)


The next few years will also be hugely important for the Borough, with the rebuild of the crumbling Queen Elizabeth Hospital set to be finalised and the major new road scheme in West Winch moving forward, coinciding with the 4,000-home development earmarked for the area.

While the council's budget may be tight, there is a big pot of funding available for projects in King's Lynn through the £25m Town Deal Fund and a further £20m for long-term investments to improve the historic urban centre.

And Mr Beales hopes talks to discuss the potential of creating a new railway station south of King's Lynn, revealed last week, will continue to progress.

"There were more than 20 new railway stations built last year. It can happen. If we were to achieve that it would be huge".