HAMPSHIRE County Council’s stalwart leader has announced he will step down from his position in May, after six years at the helm.

Councillor Roy Perry, who has been a member since 2005, made the announcement at the authority’s Full Council meeting, which is the last all-member gathering before the AGM on May 17.

A new leader will be appointed at that meeting.

The 77-year-old Romsey Rural member said he wanted to give his successor “two clear years to guide Hampshire in the period up to the next county elections in 2021”.

Cllr Perry is two years into his four-year term and said he will continue to serve his division as a backbench councillor.

After that, he plans to retire.

He said: “By standing down now at a time of my own choosing and at the mid point of the county electoral period, I will give my successor two clear years to guide Hampshire in the period up to the next county elections in 2021.

“The majority Conservative Group will have good time to prepare for the election of my successor as group leader and by making the announcement now I want avoid any overlap with the District Council elections in May or any issues in Parliament.”

Cllr Perry was first elected as a councillor in June 1970 to represent Chandlers Ford on Eastleigh Borough Council. He then stood as a parish councillor in Wellow, as well as a borough councillor and also leader of Test Valley Borough Council. He also represented the region as a Member of the European Parliament between 1994 and 2004.”

He added: “I am fortunate to continue to enjoy good health but I judge now is a good and appropriate time to allow a new leader to take over the reins.

“All local government is under pressure but Hampshire County Council has faced up to those pressures better than most and is widely admired.

“I can confidently hand over to my successor a council and county in excellent shape. With the help of MPs and others we successfully rebuffed schemes to break this county into two. I won’t mind being remembered as the man who saved Hampshire as a county.

“I pay tribute to the chief executive and all staff of the county council for their exemplary service to the council, to my deputy leader Keith Mans and all cabinet members for their support and their work and to all county councillors regardless of politics.

“I also acknowledge the wider community and those involved in public life in all its forms who contribute so much to the quality of life in this county and with whom HCC works in constructive partnership.

“I particularly thank my wife Veronica and family who have supported me over such a long time as I have indulged my passion for democratic service at local, national and international level.”