NEW Dorset Council leader Spencer Flower believes he can build cross-party support.

The Verwood councillor will be the new authority’s first leader, subject to a formal vote on May 16 when the new unitary council meets for the first time.

As leader of the Conservative group he presides over a slender four-seat margin.

He is a former Dorset County Council and East Dorset District Council leader and comes with a long history of involvement in local council and business management at the highest level.

Cllr Flower admits the challenges ahead for the new council are likely to be difficult as it struggles to make the promised savings at a time when Government support for local councils has dwindled to almost nothing.

As reported by the Daily Echo, Dorset is also one of the areas in the country where local people pay more than almost anywhere else in council tax.

Cllr Flower said he wants to encourage a ‘can do’ attitude right across the new council and admits it will be a challenge for the new authority to continue to improve services when it is so financially stretched.

“It’s a new council and we are all very excited about our future prospects,” he said. “One of my aspirations which I know is shared by my colleagues across the chamber is the culture. I want us to create a can do culture, a culture which puts our communities first and foremost.

“I am not saying that we haven’t done that in the past but we now have an opportunity for a fresh start and to do things differently; to be smarter because we’re going to have to live with less money; we’ve got less funding than we have ever had and at the same time we have a commitment to continue to make efficiencies so we don’t have to make any service cuts.”

Cllr Flower said he sees no problems at all in being a Verwood councillor and leading an authority which stretches from the tip of Portland to Shaftesbury and Gillingham and from Lyme Regis across to his own ward.

He added that he saw no difficulty in governing with a four seats majority – having, as a party group, coped previously with a majority of three.

“The simple fact is that we have a majority and we will work with that,” said Cllr Flower.

“We will almost certainly be the administration but I have a reputation for working well with colleagues across the chamber. At the end of the day we are all elected to do our best for our communities and that is how we should work, as a unit."