Richard Roberts set to become leader of Herts County Council

County councillor Richard Roberts

County councillor Richard Roberts - Credit: Herts County Council

Richard Roberts is set to become the new leader of Hertfordshire County Council – after winning the backing of the Conservative group.

The race to find a new leader began just after 9pm on Saturday (May 8) – when the then council leader David Williams lost his Harpenden North East seat by just 41 votes.

On Monday afternoon – less than two days after the shock result was declared – all 46 of the elected Conservative county councillors met to select a new group leader.

Cllr Richard Roberts – who had held the cabinet portfolio for adult care and health – was elected as Conservative group leader.

And at the Annual General Meeting of the county council, on May 25, he will be formally ratified as leader of Hertfordshire County Council.

But until then deputy council leader Cllr Teresa Heritage will hold the position of interim county council leader.

Commenting on his selection, Cllr Roberts – who represents the Kings Langley division, in Dacorum – paid tribute to the contribution made by Cllr Williams.

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“I have really big shoes to fill,” he said. “David Williams was a really significant figure for Hertfordshire and nationally.

“But I feel now is the right time to step forward to lead our council, our administration, for the next four years – and I am absolutely delighted.”

In his role as cabinet member for adult care and health, Cllr Roberts has played a major role in the county’s response to the COVID-19.

And among the big challenges facing the county council will be the recovery from the pandemic.

“The pandemic has challenged all of us in a way in a way we never knew was going to happen,” he said.

“We have had two deadly waves – and we have post-COVID syndrome in some of those who have caught the virus.

“And businesses – in particular the hospitality sector – have been hugely challenged by the impact of lockdown.

“My view is that we now need to work really closely with all our communities, as we come out of lockdown – just as we did during the pandemic itself.”

At Monday’s Conservative group meeting, leader of Hertsmere Borough Council Morris Bright was also elected as deputy group leader.

And following the meeting, Cllr Roberts said: “I couldn’t be more delighted to have Morris Bright as deputy.

“He brings the strength and character of the leader of Hertsmere Borough Council.

“He is a journalist by trade and he brings a welcome ebullience to the role. And I am indebted to him in supporting me for the next four years.”

In the coming days Cllr Roberts will have to come up with a new cabinet team.

He points to the “strength and depth across the Conservative group” and he says he will have ‘no problems’ fulfilling those roles.

Some leaders have maintained a portfolio alongside the leadership, but – like David Williams – Cllr Roberts will not.

Cllr Heritage will continue as interim leader of the county council until the AGM on May 25.

And commenting on Cllr Heritage’s contribution, Cllr Roberts said: “I am indebted to her remaining in post during this period.

“The whole group wish her well and I anticipate that she will continue to play a huge part as we rebuild our cabinet and take forward our policies to support the residents of Hertfordshire.”

  • In the county council elections, on  May 6, Cllr Roberts won his King Langley division, which is in Dacorum, with a majority in excess of 1800 votes.

He received a total of 2472 votes, with Green Party candidate Ashley Lawrence coming second with 616. Also in the race was Rob Eibeck (Labour) 523 and Dominic Sokalski (Liberal Democrat) 369.

And Cllr Roberts stresses that despite taking on the leadership role the residents of Kings Langley will continue to be a priority.