Councillor David Vasmer said he was “honoured” to take charge of the Liberal Democrat group and pledged to be a strong voice in challenging the Conservative administration.
He beat councillors Heather Kidd and Andy Boddington in a vote of the group’s 14 members, following Councillor Roger Evans’ decision to step down as leader last month after eight years.
Councillor Vasmer paid tribute to Councillor Evans’ achievement in leading the party to its best ever local election results, which he said put the group in a strong position for the next four years.
Councillor Vasmer said: “I am really pleased and honoured. We have had success in the local elections, making three gains in Shrewsbury and recording our strongest ever result for both Shrewsbury Town Council and Shropshire Council.
“We ran the Tories very close in several other seats in the north and south of the county and came close to wiping them out in Shrewsbury.
“Roger has led the party very successfully for quite a long time now, so it is an honour to take over and follow in his footsteps, and I hope to build on the success he has generated.”
The Liberal Democrats are the largest opposition party to the ruling Conservatives, who hold 43 of the 74 seats on the council under new leader Lezley Picton.
Councillor Vasmer said he would hold the administration to account for what he called its “financial mismanagement” of the council and fight for controversial capital projects to be re-examined.
He said: “What really angers me is that although we have got a change of leader, the Tories are still pursuing the North West Relief Road, moving the council headquarters to Pride Hill and selling Shirehall, which a lot of people are upset about.
“Although they have backtracked over getting rid of Shrewsbury bus station, we have got no assurance that we will have a bus station near the railway station and people think that’s really important.”
Councillor Vasmer said he would also challenge the Conservatives’ “underachievements and lack of ambition” in delivering vital services.
He said: “Broadband services are really bad. We have a shortage of affordable housing. Highways – what can I say? It is one disaster after another.
“Converting street lights to LED, that has been a Lib Dem policy since before I was a councillor and they still haven’t completed that.
“We agreed last July to bring in ‘School Streets’, following a motion I put forward, and we have only got one school so far which has had that policy implemented.
“A policy of 20mph limits outside schools was agreed in December 2019, which was a Tory motion, and they are only starting to implement it now.
“There is a trail of incompetence. My aim is to challenge the Tories over these issues, and in the next elections to take control of the council.”
The group was due to elect a deputy leader at a meeting on Monday.
Councillor Vasmer has represented the Underdale division in Shrewsbury since 2017 and is also the Lib Dem group leader on Shrewsbury Town Council.