VOICE OF WOKINGHAM: You’ve decided – now it’s time for our leaders to deliver

THURSDAY, May 2 was a momentous day for Wokingham.

We hesitate to use the word seismic, but had we been electing all of its borough councillors in one fell swoop the chances are it would be a completely new administration.

The results in Earley and Wokingham town council elections give a hint at this: 21 of the 25 Earley town seats switched from Conservatives to Lib Dems. This saw long-serving councillors kicked out of office in an instant.

A similar story in Wokingham town, were the Lib Dems are now the largest party but stopped short of having an overall majority.

And with the Liberal Democrats doubling their presence in the borough council chamber from eight to 16 councillors, when business reconvenes next week, things will be very different indeed.

The Conservatives in Wokingham borough now have some soul searching to do. They were rejected soundly by their electorate in more than half the seats they were contesting. The messages on the doorstep, in the streets, from the shop owners, over the past year have been of a party that is out of touch, arrogant and complacent.

It is not a pretty look and sometimes that criticism has been terribly unfair of a party that is trying to create a Wokingham fit for the 21st century.

The national commentators attempted to lay the loss of seats for Labour and the Conservatives as a symptom of Brexit.

Walking round the count, held at Loddon Valley Leisure Centre, last Thursday, it was clear that there were indeed some ballot papers spoilt by pro-Brexit messages. But – and this is crucial – there were hardly any more than usual and never enough to affect an overall result.

In Wokingham borough, it cannot be said that Brexit was the decisive factor. Any politician who tries to tell you that is simply fooling themselves.

The real issues – transport, housing numbers, regeneration, roads and social care – speak for themselves.

The coalition government needlessly introduced enforced austerity back in 2010. The net result has not been for the benefit of local services. Wokingham Borough Council has been working hard to discern alternative revenue streams to find new ways to fund services. Residents can only see delays and dismays. They feel that the Conservatives have their head in the sand over the problems.

Because of the way in which our council is elected, the Conservatives now have 12 months to actively seek a positive way forward or else they face another hammering next May.

It starts with their choice of new leader and the front bench they choose. Do they stick with the same old, same old or seek someone with a fresh vision and approach?

The devil they know may seem comforting – it could be electoral disaster.

Whatever happens, the electorate have spoken, they have spoken loudly, now it’s time for our leaders to deliver, not for themselves, but for every single resident who lives and works in the borough.

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Phil Creighton

Editor of The Wokingham Paper, and has worked in local journalism for more than 20 years including the Wokingham Times, Bracknell Standard and Reading Evening Post. He's also written for computer magazines, The Baptist Times and, to his delight and probably not yours, interviewed several Doctor Whos.

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