OPPOSITION members of a Hampshire council have elected a new leader.

Cllr Malcolm Wade has succeeded Cllr David Harrison as head of the Liberal Democrat group of the Conservative-controlled New Forest District Council.

Cllr Harrison, who represents Totton South, has stepped down after six years.

Cllr Wade, who represents Butts Ash and Dibden Purlieu, is also a member of Hampshire County Council and Hythe and Dibden Parish Council.

He said: "I would like to thank David for his leadership of the Liberal Democrat Group and pay tribute to the hard work he did in that role.

“I wish to thank the group for electing me as Group Leader and see my role as helping all Liberal Democrat councillors in spreading the message to the people of the New Forest that there is an alternative to more years of Conservative rule of the council.

“We want to deliver on the things that are important to local people, such as affordable housing, fighting climate change, supporting the local economy and most of all working to improve their quality of life. And we will listen to what local people say and hear what they need.”

Cllr Harrison said he had been "lucky and privileged" to have been leader of the group.

He added: "In that period I have helped the group expand from just two councillors to thirteen Councillors, with representation across the New Forest.

“It has been great to see the talent used effectively to challenge and hold the Conservative administration to account.

"We have successfully exposed some major weaknesses in the way the council is being the run, whether it be car parking policies that do not work, the very poor consultation and broken promises on wheelie bins, the U-turn on leisure centres (which they said they would not privatise but then promptly did so)."

Cllr Harrison said the Tories had "missed the boat" on investments as well as imposing above-inflation council tax increases "year after year".

"The ruling Conservative group have found themselves out of step by declining our Motion to treat climate change as an Emergency (unlike Hampshire County Council and the National Park Authority)."

But Cllr Harrison added: "All told, I think I have overseen a very successful six-year period as Leader.

"I am particularly pleased that other group members have demonstrated that they are more than capable of stepping up and taking on responsibility.

“With this in mind, I have decided it is time for me to step down as the leader and allow somebody else the opportunity to take over.

"I will of course be giving them my full support as we push on to the next level."