To receive notification from the Leader of her Deputy and the remainder of the Members appointed to the Executive; the scope of their respective portfolios; the terms of delegation to them; and Officers if applicable. (To be tabled)
The Leader of Council/Executive Members will be allowed to speak for up to 10 minutes in total. The Leader of the Opposition will be allowed to speak for up to 5 minutes.
Charlotte Haitham Taylor, Leader of the Council, made the following statement:
Mr Mayor, may I be the first to congratulate and welcome you to your new role, and wish you the best of luck for the coming year.
I’d just like to say a few words about the outgoing Mayor. Rob Stanton has given so many years to the Council, the Borough, and his residents serving as an Executive Member, Deputy Leader, and finally and fittingly as Mayor. In particular, I’d like to highlight his excellent record as Executive Member for Children’s Services, and it seems incredibly apt that one of his last engagements as Mayor was at an awards ceremony to recognise the contribution of our foster carers. I’m sure I’m reflecting the views of everyone here when I say that you will be sorely missed – though I think perhaps we’re all slightly pleased that it means our meetings will be a lot shorter!
I also want to welcome all the new Members attending Full Council. On the Labour benches, we have Carl Doran and Rachel Burgess. On the Liberal Democrat benches we have David Hare, who is very familiar with this chamber – as is Helen Power, who some of you may remember as the former Liberal Democrat Political Assistant. Finally, on the Conservative benches, we have Graham Howe representing Remenham, Wargrave and Ruscombe, Daniel Sargeant representing Finchampstead North, Guy Grandison returning to the Council representing Maiden Erlegh, and Jenny Cheng, who won South Lake Ward.
Let me pass on this Council’s commiserations to those Members who were unsuccessful in seeking re-election. Michael Firmager, Mark Ashwell, Beth Rowland, and of course my able Deputy David Lee. All of them gave between them many years of committed service to our community, so on behalf of Members here tonight and the residents of this Borough, I want to thank them for everything they have done.
I suppose I must inevitably begin with the local elections. The Conservatives lost a net three seats overall – not four, as the Wokingham Paper would have you believe. But, in all the noise around these elections, a clear piece of information seems to have been lost – we were the most successful party. We won the majority of seats, and 45% of all votes cast across the Borough.
I have no doubt that the Opposition will tonight claim some great victory out of the local elections. But we should note that Labour won just two of the 18 seats they contested, and the Lib Dems didn’t even bother to put up candidates for all the wards. Quite conveniently they chose not to field a candidate in Arborfield – perhaps Cllr Cowan is not as ‘independent’ as he claims?
Incidentally, I note that Cllr Cowan has been making a big deal out of his announcement that he intends to form a Residents’ Association party (whilst somehow also being an independent), and wrote in last week’s newspaper that there has been “over 20 years of Conservative misrule”. I know that a week is a long time in politics, but surely Cllr Cowan hasn’t forgotten that he was a Conservative Councillor for most of those same 20 years? Indeed, as an Executive Member he was instrumental in bringing in the very housing policies he now rails against.
The truth is, just as across the country, there were no clear outright winners in Wokingham Borough – though the Opposition will no doubt try to paint a defeat as an overwhelming victory, believing as they do that history will be kind to them, for they intend to rewrite it.
The residents sent us a clear message on 3rd May – we have heard that message, and are listening to them. If our residents feel that they are not being listened to, then we need to redouble our efforts to show that we have taken on board what they have to say.
We have started on so many ambitious projects, and their size and scale means that we don’t always get things right. We acknowledge that, and it is important that we seek to fix the things that are wrong – rather than writing off any attempt to do something new as an immediate failure, as our Opposition always seems to do.
Across public services, we need to see a cultural shift that moves sharply away from the ethos that says “we must leave it up to the state”. Wokingham Borough Council is no exception. As I announced earlier this year, we will be undertaking work on a new Council Plan. This Plan will not simply be a long document with a set of unachievable targets, left in a drawer to gather dust the moment the ink has dried. We will be working with organisations and bodies that this Council deals with to build a working partnership that will set out not just what the Council can deliver for them, but what together we can do to achieve a better Borough.
Similarly, we want to work with residents to shape the priorities of the services they use, how they can work better, but how residents can take more responsibility. Everyone living in this Borough needs to feel that they have a stake in their community, that they have ownership of the things that happen and the decisions that are made.
For too many years, we have stood in this Chamber and said “we cannot go on like this”, and yet we continued much as we have always done. If we truly want our Borough to continue to be a success for decades to come, we need to ensure that residents, including every one of us here, take more responsibility for our communities, and that this Council continues to respond to residents’ needs and deliver what they see to be important. I believe that on this side of the Chamber, we have the answers to the challenges facing our Borough.
Our manifesto set out a range of ambitious policy plans that we will begin to implement or continue implementing this year. If the Opposition want to work with us, and develop joint approaches tackling our many challenges, then I welcome their contribution.
To deliver on our programme, I have reshaped my Executive team:
· Cllr Julian McGhee-Sumner will continue as Executive Member for Finance and Corporate Resources, and will also be Deputy Leader of the Council. He will be assisted by Cllr Charles Margetts as the Deputy Executive Member;
· Cllr Richard Dolinski will continue as Executive Member for Adult Social Care, Health and Wellbeing, with Cllr Laura Blumenthal as Deputy Executive Member;
· Cllr Keith Baker will continue as Executive Member for Highways and Transport with Cllr Anthony Pollock as Deputy Executive Member;
· Cllr Simon Weeks will be continuing as Executive Member for Planning and Enforcement, and Cllr Norman Jorgensen will carry on as Executive Member for Environment, Leisure and Libraries;
· Cllr Stuart Munro will take on the reshaped role of Executive Member for Business, Economic Development and Strategic Planning, leading on the Local Plan Update, with the assistance of Cllr Wayne Smith as Deputy Executive Member;
· Cllr Pauline Helliar-Symons will be returning to the Executive to take on the role of Executive Member for Children’s Services, assisted by Cllr Shahid Younis as Deputy Executive Member;
· Cllr Philip Mirfin will take on the newly created role of Executive Member for Regeneration, taking on the task of completing the regeneration of Wokingham Town Centre;
· Finally, Cllr Pauline Jorgensen will step into the new post of Executive Member for Housing.
A full breakdown of the roles of responsibilities of these Members will be set out in the amended Section 5 of the Constitution.
In order for our Borough to survive as a great place to live and work, we will invest in and shape our communities to fit our residents’ needs today and for years to come. We will move away from a relationship that puts the Council above local people, and instead make sure that this is a Council that does not depend on Government funding but instead works with residents to deliver the best for our community. And we will continue to be champions for this area and the people who live here, standing up for our Borough in Westminster.
This is a time of great change, in the world, in our country, and in local government. As a Conservative, I believe that we have to adapt to the times or get left behind. Let us continue forward, together, to create something that will outlast us all, something which we can all be proud of.
Lindsay Ferris, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group, made the following statement:
I should like to pay tribute to a number of those who are no longer in this chamber.
Tonight, we say farewell to the outgoing Mayor Rob Stanton. Many of us on this side consider him a real Gentleman and he will be missed.
I should in particular like to acknowledge Beth Rowland, who represented South Lake Ward in Woodley so well for the last 22 years. She has represented her residents in many ways and has worked tirelessly on their behalf for this period.
I should also like to remember my friend Bob Pitts, who has now retired to the Isle of Wight.
I should also like to thank David Lee and Mark Ashwell for their contributions.
Welcome to all the new members, but especially Helen Power and David Hare who join our team.
The role of an Opposition Leader is to provide a credible alternative to the ruling Group. I will not just oppose, or be critical of what has been proposed, but I will provide constructive alternatives where appropriate and to give cross-party support where it is deserved.
Last Autumn the Liberal Democrats launched the first phase of our Manifesto under the Heading “Homes for Local People”, and our second phase earlier this year. We plan to build on these and will develop and enhance our proposals over the coming months, so that residents of Wokingham Borough will have a clear opportunity to see what we would do if we ran this Council.
The recent local elections have given the ruling Group food for thought and many residents will now expect action from the Leaders of this Council. We shall keep them to account.
In this regard I have restructured the Lib Dem team, so that we will now have shadow members of the Group covering all the Executive positions. This will enable us to build up our knowledge and experience, which is so vital in keeping the ruling Group on their toes.
Finally, I acknowledge that there is now a third Group on the Council and of course we have Gary our Independent Councillor who I am sure will provide us with some interesting questions throughout the year.