THE new leader of Salisbury City Council has vowed to unite the city after a "divisive row" which lead to the Conservative party being labelled "inept and inexperienced".

Councillor Liz Sirman was confirmed as the new leader of the city council at the full council meeting on Monday night. Cllr Simon Jackson has been elected deputy leader.

It comes as the leaders of the city's Labour and Lib Dem groups have criticised the Conservative party for removing cllr Jeremy Nettle from the helm.

In a joint letter, cllrs Mike Osment (Labour) and Brian Dalton (Lib Dem), said that in a time of a national crisis, local Tories are "more interested in their Machiavellian self-importance".

They added: "Jeremy Nettle was a leader who carried respect, not only with us as the opposition parties, but with the public too. He brought stability to a wild-cat council.

"But we knew he was sadly fighting a losing battle with his inexperienced and inept colleagues, who have voted by nine to six to sadly oust him and completely split the Tory group."

Cllr Sirman said she was "delighted to be elected as leader", having been elected the Conservative Group leader at the beginning of the month.

She added: "Leadership elections are always somewhat divisive and bruising events. Councillors rightly hold strong views on policies and on the direction of the city council.

"But I hope that with this election now behind us, the city council can move forward in the months ahead and we can unite in delivering for the people of Salisbury.

"As leader, I will promote the interests of the city and make sure that on the biggest issues facing us such as the ETRO and LTZ that we are listening to what those who vote for us are saying.

"We are elected to serve the people of Salisbury, not do what we want regardless of public opinion."

Out of a possible 22 votes, Cllr Sirman received 10, with everyone else abstaining, including six conservatives.

Cllr Osment and Cllr Dalton added: "Their split was very publicly evident recently when they threw out their own proposal for a Christmas event, turning the meeting into a shambles, and again criticising members of the public and council officers.

"Their opinions on People Friendly Streets are known. But this is the responsibility of Wiltshire Council and their anger should be vented in that direction, but they are terrified to raise it there and instead have turned on their hapless leader. We wish Jeremy all the best."