In a district where geography matters as much as politics, control of the new East Hampshire District Council became a power struggle between Alton and Whitehill & Bordon.
Alton, with five Liberal Democrats among its seven councillors, could have had a big say in the administration had Whitehill & Bordon Community Party leader Cllr Andy Tree chosen to do a deal with the Lib Dems and Greens to form a 22-seat coalition with a majority.
Instead Cllr Tree aligned his party’s six seats with the 19 of Cllr Richard Millard’s Conservatives to keep the Tories in power – but with Cllr Tree as deputy council leader and the rest of his town’s councillors also in influential roles.
Taking a district-wide approach, Cllr Hunt – pictured at the count – said: “We will certainly be providing policy ideas to the administration, and will work for all East Hampshire, without fear or favour.”
Cllr Hunt felt his overview and scrutiny Committee chairman role would get the Lib Dem voice heard. He said: “The committee also has a role to play in making policy suggestions to cabinet and to provide evidence to assist policy making.
“With that in mind I shall invite South East Water to give evidence to the committee on sewage capacity in the district and the number of times raw sewage has been released into our rivers. To get a balanced view, environmental campaigners will also be invited.”
He added: “With the political groups more balanced I am hopeful the council will have plenty of fresh thinking for a better East Hampshire.”
Green group leader Cllr Ian James said: “The controlling coalition of the EHDC could have been configured to include the Green Party. In reality the WBCP is a single-issue pressure group. Its only rationale for being is to seek policies that favour Whitehill & Bordon.”
Cllr Millard, welcoming the new council at the annual meeting, said: “We are now an interesting mix.”