PURBECK District Council has a new leader.

The finely balanced authority, which has 11 Liberal Democrat members, 11 Conservatives and two Independents, is now led by Lib Dem, Cllr David Budd.

He takes over from Tory, Cllr Gary Suttle, who had been leader since the ultra-close election in May 2008. The change happened after one Independent member abstained from voting, leaving his colleague with a casting vote.

The change marks the end of 10 years of a Conservative leading the council, the party having lost its majority at the last election.

Things are sure to remain healthy in the chamber, as a Tory, Cllr Mike Lovell, has been elected as deputy leader.

Another Conservative, Cllr Nick Cake, a former leader of the council, is chairman and vice-chairman is Lib Dem, Cllr Eric Osmond.

Cllr Budd said: “We intend to make a real difference; we will endeavour to promote our ambition of a safe, clean, healthy Purbeck where the environment and character of the district is protected, while meeting the needs of local people to live, work and move about the area.”

The Lib Dems hope to make an impact on the council’s influential policy group, as they now make up five of the six-strong panel.

Cllr Suttle said: “Obviously as a party we’re bitterly disappointed and I think the people of Purbeck should be bitterly disappointed, because we have 50,000 people in Purbeck and they predominantly vote Liberal or Conservative.”

He added that both parties had been “held to ransom” by the fact that the Independent members effectively had the deciding votes.

Cllr Suttle added: “We’ve got to the seizure point, but we’ve worked with the Liberals for the past year very well.”

Meanwhile Cllr Audrey Tighe is mayor of Wareham, while Cllr Michael Pratt continues as mayor of Swanage.