HAMPSHIRE County Council has a new leader after the ruling Tory group voted for a chief – just five days after the local elections.
Romsey Extra's Roy Perry beat Mel Kendal to the top job by winning a party leadership election today and will officially be appointed at a full council meeting on May 23.
Cllr Perry, 70, replaces veteran council leader Cllr Ken Thornber, 80, who announced he would step down within minutes of retaining his Brockenhurst seat last Thursday.
The Tories retained control of the local authority but lost six seats in a night of election drama which saw the UK Independence Party take ten seats and the arrival of four-party politics in Hampshire.
Cllr Kendal was ousted from the deputy leader post by Keith Mans, who was Cllr Perry’s running mate, at the party’s annual meeting today.
But Cllr Thornber was elected unopposed as chairman after the former deputy chairman, Pam Mutton, who would have been in the running for the post, lost her Andover seat by 10 votes.
This means Cllr Thornber will still preside over full council meetings.
After the meeting, Cllr Perry, former chief of children’s services, said he was delighted to have the top job. He said: “Ken will still have to wear a smart shirt and tie on full council days. He got a standing ovation and a vote of approval for what he has done.”
The former MEP, and father of Romsey and Southampton North MP Caroline Nokes, added: “Ken deserves full recognition for his tenure as leader but there always comes a time to move on and I am glad that Ken has recognised that time has come.”
Cllr Perry said his leadership style would be more “collegiate” and he plans to change the make-up of the Cabinet, to include more women and younger people.
This was Cllr Perry’s second bid to become leader. Last year, the ex-deputy council leader narrowly lost to Cllr Thornber by just two votes.
Cllr Thornber had promised to stand down in May 2012 but changed his mind and forced a vote, saying he wanted to lead his party to victory in 2013.
The political make-up of the council is now Tories 45 seats, Liberal Democrats 17, Labour Party four and Independents two.