Last Thursday I began my first speech since being re-elected leader of the council by welcoming the many new faces in the chamber – writes East Hampshire District Council leader Richard Millard.

Following the local elections on May 4, we have 22 new councillors and, for the first time at EHDC, a coalition administration.

This is obviously a time of change and we must acknowledge the message the voters of gave us at the ballot box and be ready to see things in a new way.

We must also be confident enough to recognise what has worked well in the past and humble enough to accept what needs to improve. This balance of continuity and change will be difficult to achieve but possible if we can work together.

Becoming a new councillor is a daunting and exciting experience. The mechanisms and formalities of how council business is done can be bewildering at first but, full of great ideas and lofty ideals, it is thrilling to have the chance to make a difference in your community. 

You finally have your hands on the levers of power – it just takes a while to work out which lever does what.  

EHDC now boasts an interesting mix of councillors.  Four political parties are represented, as well as one independent and six councillors from the Whitehill & Bordon Community Party, with whom we have formed a strong coalition.

Behind those political labels, each individual member will have their own ambitions and their own reasons for standing for election.

But one thing unites us all, and that is a passion for East Hampshire and a drive to help make the district the best it can be for our residents.

Even if we all disagree with each other on political grounds, every councillor sees eye-to-eye on this – it’s the residents who matter most.

For me, national politics isn’t of interest. 

The reality is the national government has made things very difficult for us locally and you won’t find me defending our Westminster counterparts.

What interests me is improving the lives of East Hampshire folk.

And I believe our residents feel the same way. They don’t want to see in-fighting and back-biting in local politics, they want to see unity and they want to see results.

I want to bring together people from across the chamber, even if we differ in our politics, to work together for benefit of all our residents.

Togetherness is going to be the watchword for this administration.

In forming a coalition with Cllr Andy Tree and the Whitehill & Bordon Community Party, we have taken on a fresh perspective, new ideas and a wealth of experience and energy for local issues.

But the spirit of collaboration must stretch beyond that agreement and extend to all our councillors. Every one of us has different expertise and different life experiences. Every one of us brings something unique and valuable to the table.

So let’s listen to each other and listen to the residents. Let’s find out what they want us to do and work out how we can do it. Because if we work together we will achieve far more than if we work against each other.