Herefordshire councillors have elected a new leader... but with the support only of a minority.

Conservative group leader Jonathan Lester is now empowered to appoint a cabinet to run the county after the vote at a full council meeting this morning (Friday, May 19).

In an initial vote-off between Coun Lester and current council leader Coun David Hitchiner of the Independents for Herefordshire, Coun Lester gained 22 votes, with the backing of non-aligned independent councillor Jim Kenyon.


With the support of the Greens, Coun Hitchiner gained 14 votes. The Liberal Democrats abstained.

Then in a second vote to confirm the appointment, Coun Lester picked up two more votes, with Coun Hitchiner apparently among them, but was still short of the 27 which would have indicated the support of the majority of his fellow councillors.

Nine councillors voted against and 18 abstained.

Comment: Gavin McEwan, local democracy reporter

In the end, it was surprisingly straightforward.

With the other parties divided, Herefordshire's Conservatives were able to secure the twin posts of chairman and, more significantly, leader of the council today.

Coun Jonathan Lester now has a free hand in selecting a seven-strong cabinet to control the council's main departments, unconstrained by any need to appease other groups.

It's a remarkable outcome for a party that increased its vote share in Herefordshire by less than half a percentage point, to 34.6 per cent, on May 4.

Coun Lester said: “As leader it’s now my responsibility to form a cabinet, which will then take steps forward to ensure all Herefordshire Council services are working for residents to the best of our ability.

“I have clear ideas about what the makeup of the cabinet should be, and we will be announcing that shortly.”

Herefordshire Conservatives secretary and newly elected councillor for Bromyard Bringsty Peter Stoddart added: “We are now looking to work collaboratively for the good of the county.”

Former Conservative leader in the county Coun Roger Phillips was earlier elected chairman of the council, defeating the Liberal Democrats’ candidate Coun Ed O’Driscoll and Coun Stef Simmons of the Greens.

Coun Simmons was then appointed unopposed as vice-chair.