Independent councillor replaced former Tory leader with a majority of one vote at last night’s AGM.

TORRIDGE District Council came under new leadership at its AGM last night (Monday) with a majority of one vote.

Councillor Philip Collins, a non-aligned independent councillor who represents Clinton ward, took the role of leader from Councillor Barry Parsons.

During the vote – which councillors elected not to take by secret ballot – the room was split with 18 voting for Cllr Collins and 17 for Cllr Parsons.

Councillors aired concerns that Cllr Parsons’ new role on Devon County Council’s cabinet as portfolio holder for performance and community engagement could prove too much with his job as leader as well.

Cllr Parsons, a Conservative councillor who has stood as leader for the last two years, said he was ‘disappointed’ in the decision but wished Cllr Collins luck.

“It was flattering to receive the very positive comments about my leadership over the past two years,” Cllr Parsons told the Gazette.

“I assure all residents in Torridge that, as always, I will always endeavour to help as many groups and people as possible in our district.

“I would like to thank officers, and especially the Conservative group, for all their commitment to me over the last two years.”

Cllr Collins shook hands with Cllr Parsons as he took the former leader’s place at the table.

“I am confident we will go forward as a council,” said Cllr Collins.

“I am an independent, totally non-aligned councillor; when we come here we throw away our party rosettes.

“I’m sure we will work all together for the benefit of Torridge.

“I look forward to Barry Parsons’ position at County and spending that time really pushing Torridge.”

Councillor Roger Johnson was re-elected as deputy leader with a majority of three votes against Councillor Gaye Tabor.

The position of chairman was taken by Councillor Tony Inch, and former chairman Andrew Eastman was elected as deputy chairman.