OXFORD City Council will have a new leader next month after Bob Price said he will stand down in February, the Oxford Mail can reveal.

Mr Price said he would not stand for re-election as a city councillor last September – but it had been thought he would stay on as leader until he retired in May.

But in an email sent to Labour councillors on New Year’s Day, Mr Price outlined his plans.

He told colleagues he is seeking to stand down from February 1 and under that plan, a new council leader would be elected by the Labour Party’s council group at a party meeting on January 25.

But ‘if agreeable to the incoming leader’, Mr Price said he would retain a senior role until May and the next round of local elections.

As yet, no senior Labour councillors on Oxford City Council have thrown their hat into the ring to replace him.

And when asked yesterday, Mr Price, 69, said that it is ‘for the (Labour) group to decide’ who will succeed him.

In the email, he said he would be ‘happy to stay on’ as portfolio holder for corporate and civic matters and economic development after he resigns as leader.

Mr Price, who is also the chairman of the Oxfordshire Growth Board, also wrote that he would be willing to continue in that capacity.

He was a key figure in the county scooping £215m from the Government to pay for infrastructure and planning in a project that will see 100,000 new homes built across Oxfordshire by 2031.

Mr Price has been council leader since 2008 and a councillor since 1983.

Leading candidates to replace Mr Price could include the council’s deputy leader, Susan Brown, and former council leader, Alex Hollingsworth.

Others being tipped to run include former council deputy leader Ed Turner, who is the partner of Oxford East MP Anneliese Dodds and has been a councillor for Rose Hill since 2002.

Another member of the executive board, Linda Smith, is also thought to be considering her options regarding a potential leadership bid.

A city councillor, who is not from Mr Price’s Labour group and wanted to remain anonymous, said of the email: “It’s an interesting thing.”

They added: “It would be good to retain (Mr Price’s) experience in economic development as he has done a lot of work in that area and I don’t know much work he’s passed on (to other colleagues).

“My million dollar question is who’s going to take over."

They added: “All you can say is that he’s done a very good job as leader; most people believe he’s been a very good leader.”

The new leader could be key in the next stage of the development of the council – which would be key in deciding whether the council is merged with other authorities.

Oxford University DPhil candidate Alex Donnelly was selected last year to contest Mr Price’s Hinksey Park ward for the Labour Party in May's local elections.

Mr Donnelly was a naval intelligence officer as a student and was deployed to Iraq as part of a Special Duties intelligence unit.

He was seriously injured in an improvised explosive device attack in Basra.

After being medically discharged from the military, he has built an academic career in Oxford.

Oxford City Council declined to comment.