A SIGNIFICANT difference of opinion led to Wokingham Conservatives ditching their leader last night.
Cllr Charlotte Haitham Taylor will resign as council leader at its meeting on Thursday, and a leadership election for the Conservatives will now take place. The group’s acting deputy leader, Cllr Pauline Jorgensen, will step up in the interim.
Cllr Haitham Taylor said in a statement: “Yesterday evening I met with the Wokingham Borough Conservative Group. The discussion focused on the direction in which I have been leading the council with my executive team and it was clear that there is a significant difference of opinion.
“On this occasion, it is with regret I did not win the argument and, following a vote by the group, they will now be seeking to appoint a new leader, who reflects more closely their views and values.
“At the next full council meeting on Thursday, November 22, I will make a personal statement at the beginning of the meeting, before I formally tender my resignation as the leader of the council.
“Until I make my statement to the full council, I have no further comments to make.”
Cllr Haitham Taylor was elected leader in May 2017 after successfully challenging the then group leader Cllr Keith Baker.
In this May’s local elections she lost her deputy leader, David Lee, after Cllr Rachel Burgess snatched his Norreys seat from him.
In September, her new deputy leader, Cllr Julian McGhee-Sumner, resigned from the Executive, telling The Wokingham Paper: “I disagree with the direction of travel under the leader and felt it was time to move on.
“I will become a backbencher. It’s sad to do this, I’ve been on the Executive since 2010 and I never thought it would end like this.”
Cllr McGhee-Sumner added that he intended to be an active backbencher, but as to his future plans, he said: “I’ll have to see what other backbenchers would like to see happen.”
Speaking to The Wokingham Paper, the leader of Wokingham’s Liberal Democrats, Cllr Lindsay Ferris, paid tribute to his opposite number.
“I got on well with Charlotte,” he said. “I’m sorry for her, I think she was trying but these things happen.
“We were able to do a few things jointly, we supported initiatives like the highways contract, it was a good piece of work. We’ve been able to work more together than previous leaders. I stood up in the chamber and said we would work together where appropriate.
“Issues like the five-year land supply wasn’t political, it was about the developers.”
He added: “It’s a shame that her political party is split and divided.”