Ruth Dombey has announced she will be standing down as leader of Sutton Council in May.

The Liberal Democrat leader, who represents the Sutton North ward, said she will continue to serve as a councillor after leaving the role.

Dombey will remain leader until the full council meeting on May 20, when a new leader will be appointed.

Dombey, who has served as leader of the Lib Dem council since 2012, is one of the longest-serving council leaders in the UK.

The announcement, published on Sutton’s website on Monday morning (March 11), brought words of support from the higher echelons of Lib Dem politics.

Former leader and current spokesperson for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Tim Farron said: “You are one of our very best Ruth, congratulations on your amazing term – thank you for your ongoing service. You help to give politics a good name.”

In her parting statement, Dombey praised her fellow councillors who she said “care so much about our borough”.

When reflecting on her highlights as leader, she pointed to the development of the London Cancer Hub in Belmont, which has now become a national leader in the field.

She also noted her work on redeveloping Sutton’s High Street, and said she wants to “ensure it remains a hub for our communities to live, work and have fun”.

Dombey has dominated Sutton’s politics for over a decade, winning three elections as head of the council in 2014, 2018 and 2022.

Sutton forms part of the Lib Dem stronghold of South West London, along with its neighbours Richmond and Kingston.

Talk of an immediate successor to the role has not been forthcoming. However, the council’s current Deputy Leader David Bartolucci is expected to be in contention.

Dombey said she is standing down so a new leader can prepare to take the lead of the council ahead of the 2026 local elections.

She was first elected as a councillor in 2002, and has stated she will continue to “serve the community as a local councillor” into the next election.

In her statement, Dombey said: “After 12 wonderful years as Leader of the Council, I have decided that now is the right time to step down and pass on the baton.

“With the General Election this year and our important Local Elections taking place in 2026, I feel that now is the right time to step aside and allow my successor time to take on this important and challenging role and lead us into the next election.

“It has been a huge honour and a privilege to be the Leader of Sutton Council and I am very grateful to everyone – fellow councillors, council officers and above all our residents – who care so much about our borough.

“I’m proud of what the council has achieved since I became leader in 2012. The London Cancer Hub is putting Sutton on the world stage as one of the world’s leading cancer drug discovery centres.

"Our plans for our main town centre demonstrate our vision to bring our historic and empty buildings back to life and help ensure it remains a hub for our communities to live, work and have fun. This will protect our shops and businesses and bring greater footfall to Sutton High Street, as well as create more local jobs.

“We continue to deliver on our ambitious programme of providing more housing across the borough, alongside continuing to care for those in our borough who need us the most – from meals on wheels to Admiral Nurses, to being the first local authority to build a brand new dedicated children’s home at Willow Rise. All of this makes me proud to call Sutton my home and to have been part of its transformation.

“Now is the right time for me to step down. I look forward to continuing to serve the community as a local councillor and supporting the new leader, who will continue our ambition to make our borough the best place in South London to live, work and raise a family.”