A NEW leader has taken the reins of Wirral's Liberal Democrat group.

The decision for Cllr Tom Harney to stand down as leader comes in the wake of the group being criticised for its "lack of direction."

Former Lib Dem Cllr Mark Johnston quit the party two weeks ago to become an Independent, saying party politics had become a major issue in the town hall.

He said he intended to remain an independent member of the council while he considered his next move.

Now Eastham councillor Phil Gilchrist has been voted in as leader of the Lib Dems and has received the full backing of his predecessor.

Councillor Harney told the Globe: "I spoke with Phil about becoming leader as we have worked together for over 40 years now.

"I'm very pleased that he has accepted the role and I'm sure he will do an excellent job as he was leader from 1993 to 2001.

"I felt it was better for the group for him to be leader and I will continue to represent my ward, Eastham."

And senior Lib Dem Cllr Stuart Kelly said the group were fully supportive of Cllr Gilchrist’s new post.

He said: "It was Tom’s decision to stand down and it certainly wasn’t a case of him being pushed. We have confidence in Phil’s leadership."