A NEW leader of Herefordshire Council has been unanimously elected.

At a meeting of the full council last week Coun Jonathan Lester was chosen to replace Tony Johnson, who has decided to step down as leader.

Coun Lester paid tribute to the outgoing leader who will remain on the council as a ward councillor.

He said: "Tony has paid a pivotal role in taking this council forward. He has shown a steely resolve and a great fortitude when having to make the difficult decisions we have needed to make."

Coun Lester was first elected as a councillor for the county council in 2011 and for the last three years has been a cabinet member for Young People and Children’s Wellbeing.

He said: "It is an enormous privilege for me to be leading this council and it is a very proud moment for me. I accept this great responsibility knowing I will need to listen to everybody."

He said he was first employed by the council in April 1988 and added: "My first job was to sort the post in the town hall. I am still worried there is a letter out that hasn't gone to where it should have gone.

"But if you can go from sorting out the post to becoming leader of Herefordshire Council it is absolutely clear and evident that in Herefordshire, Here You Can."

Coun Lester, whose ward is Three Crosses, said all political parties in the council need to work together.

He said: "We have a bright future and if we are determined we can have a brighter future still. Moving forward in this world of change we must seize our opportunities."

Both Anthony Powers, leader of It's Our County, and Bob Matthews, leader of the Independents, thanked Coun Johnson for his service as leader of the council.

Coun Johnson said the council has managed to work within much reduced budgets for the fourth year running and have reduced spending by £67m a year, due to the cuts from central government.

He said: "Herefordshire as a county, and the council as an organisation, is resilient, creative, and innovative; both are full of people who care greatly about the county and its future.

"We will, on occasion, have our differences of opinion, but should not allow those differences to adversely affect the way we work together or minimise the huge area of common ground that we all share.

"It has been an honour and I am immensely proud to have had the opportunity to lead the council through some challenging times and look forward confidently to its continued success."