CONSERVATIVE councillors say they abstained from electing the new Herefordshire Council leader because they felt it was too much of a risk to back someone they know nothing about.

Newly elected Independent councillor David Hitchiner was chosen as leader with the backing of his group, It’s Our County, the Greens and non-aligned councillors last week.

But the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats abstained from the vote.

Former council leader Tony Johnson said his Conservative group could not back a councillor whose ‘leanings, inclinations and abilities’, are unknown to them.

“It is nothing to do with the individual,” he said.

“I have no reason to doubt the chap's background, but I don't know how he will perform and neither does anyone else in the council because he is brand new.

“The leader of the council, as an individual, has more influence over the lives of Herefordshire residents than any other person on the council.

“As elected members, I don’t believe we have the right to take risks with an unknown person in that position.

“We really ought to have observed the leanings, inclinations and abilities of the councillor working in the public sector before imposing the effect of that person on the general public.

“We really are concerned. Is the man an extreme right winger? Is he an unreformed Marxist? Is he centre ground?

“The point is, nobody knows nor can we know.”