“The residents sent us a clear message on May 3, we have heard that message and are listening to them. If our residents feel 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.”
That was the message from the leader of Wokingham Borough Council, Cllr Charlotte Haitham Taylor.
She was addressing the annual council meeting held on Thursday, May 24 – the first since the local elections, using her speech to set out her vision for the year ahead.
“We have started on so many ambitious projects and their size and scale means that we don’t always get things right,” she added.
“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. We will be undertaking work on a new council plan.”
She said it would not be a long document with a seat of unachievable targets, left in a drawer to gather dust.
“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.”
The leader also intended to work with residents better “to shape the priorities of the services they use, how they can work better, but how residents can 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.”
On appointing her new Executive, Cllr Haitham Taylor said: “We will continue to be champions for this area and the people who live here, standing up for our borough in Westminster.”
Cllr Haitham Taylor also took time in her speech to reflect on recent election results, welcoming new councillors and commiserating those that lost their seats.
“I want to thank them for everything they have done,” she said.
“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 be 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 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.”
To laughter from the Conservative benches, she said: “Quite conveniently they chose not to field a candidate in Arborfield, perhaps Cllr Cowan is not as independent as he claims?”
Cllr Haitham Taylor also poured scorn on Cllr Cowan’s comments in last week’s Wokingham Paper that there has been “over 20 years of Conservative misrule”.
“Surely Cllr Cowan hasn’t forgotten that he was a Conservative councillor for most of those same 20 years?”
She added that “there were no clear outright winners in Wokingham borough [at the local elections]. 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.”
She concluded by saying: “This is a time of great change, in the world, in our country and in our 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 be proud of.”