THE first meeting of New Forest District Council since the local elections saw it re-elect Sway councillor Barry Rickman as leader of the Conservative administration.
Voters on 2nd May returned the Tories to power with 46 seats, but with a reduced majority as the Liberal Democrats increased their presence from two to 13.
Councillors took their places for the first full meeting of the new four-year council at NFDC’s Appletree Court HQ in Lyndhurst.
Cllr Rickman announced he would be keeping Cllr Edward Heron, of Downlands and Forest, as his deputy and cabinet member for planning and infrastructure.
His new ruling cabinet would be “business as usual”, Cllr Rickman said, with the only new face being Cllr Mark Steele, of Bransgore and Burley.
He takes the leisure brief to replace James Binns, who lost his Butts Ash and Dibden Purlieu seat to the Lib Dems.
Lib Dem opposition leader Cllr David Harrison was not at the meeting but his new deputy, Cllr Barbara Clark, of Hythe West and Langdown, said: “We look forward to robust and respectful debates over the years.”
NFDC’s new civic head will be Tory Cllr Allan Glass, of Holbury and North Blackfield, who was elected to be the new council chair. His deputy is Tory Cllr Derek Tipp, of Ashurst, Copythorne South and Netley Marsh.
Cllr Glass, who was vice-chair during 2018/19, said: “I assure you I will do my utmost to do my duty to the best of my ability.”
He selected as his fundraising beneficiaries for the year the Hythe-based Solent Dolphin charity, which runs a boat on Southampton Water for disabled people, and also New Forest Disability, which gives advice and support.
He replaces Cllr Mel Kendal, who stood down at the last elections after 24 years on the authority, including a spell as Tory leader, and was given a round of applause as he handed over the chain of office at his final meeting.
Chairs and vice-chairs were also elected for NFDC’s nine committees and panels, with all the leading roles going to the Tories. The important planning committee chairmanship went to Cllr Christine Ward, of Becton.
Lib Dem attempts to make Tory Cllr Joshua Kidd chair and then vice-chair of the housing overview and scrutiny panel were defeated, with Cllrs Steve Davies and Ann Sevier chosen instead.
The sole Independent on the council, Cllr Jacqui England of Lymington Town, was not awarded a single committee seat, under the rules for political proportionality.
A new eight-person HR committee was also announced, with Cllr Rickman and Cllr Steele as its chair and vice-chair. It will monitor staff matters such as health, safety and welfare.