THE FORMER leader of the Liberal Democrats has praised the Wokingham borough branch for their electoral success last week.
In the local elections, the party doubled its borough council representation overnight – it took eight seats from the Conservatives including the leader, Julian McGhee-Sumner, in Wescott ward.
They also won Twyford, giving them a second seat in the northern parishes.
The party also had significant success at town council level, taking 21 out of 25 seats on Earley Town Council and 11 seats on Wokingham Town Council, making them the largest parties on both. Cllr Clive Jones becomes the new leader of Earley Town Council.
Labour gained another seat in Bulmershe and Whitegates as Shirley Boyt beat the Conservatives.
And in Shinfield South, an independent candidate, Jim Frewin, beat executive member Anthony Pollock. It was only the second time he had stood for election.
In all, four executive members lost their seats: Julian McGhee-Sumner, executive member for regeneration Philip Mirfin, executive member for housing Norman Jorgensen and executive member for finance Anthony Pollock. The chair of planning, Tim Holton, also lost his seat.
The results mean that the Conservatives now have 31 seats on the borough council and a majority of eight.
The Liberal Democrats have 16 seats, Labour four and there are three independents.
The only area where the Conservatives’ support held up was Woodley where they retained control of the town council.
A delighted Lord Campbell told The Wokingham Paper: “This is real progress and it demonstrates what happens if you do the work and campaign. If you do the work all the year-round people are willing to trust you.
“This is a time that the conservative party as at sixes and sevens, albeit on Brexit, but these are elections, but this should be a clear indication that people are willing to trust the Liberal Democrats to take the difficult decisions about local issues like housing.”
He added: “I would be astonished if next year we did not obtain even greater success at this level.”
Group leader Cllr Lindsay Ferris was very pleased with the results.
“Undoubtedly the standout result was Maria Gee on Wescott. I’d like to say I wish Julian well.
“Having 16 Liberal Democrats on the council will mean that we will have a lot more influence and we’ll be able to start putting forward our manifesto.”
Labour group leader Cllr Andy Croy had hoped that the party would pick up more seats but came within 20 votes of winning Shinfield North from Cllr Parry Batth.
He said: “Two of our hardest working candidates have won seats on the town council and I am really, really pleased for them, they’ve worked so hard.
“We now have a group on Wokingham town council – we have record group sizes on town and borough.
“I’m delighted – it shows the trust that residents have in our candidates and a reflection on their hard work. We are working hard for residents all through the year.”
In a statement posted on social media, Cllr Pauline Jorgensen, the Conservatives’ acting leader said: “Following the election results last Thursday, I would like to congratulate the new and returning councillors who were elected to the Borough Council and to our Town and Parish Councils.
“I would like to thank all the people who are no longer members of the council for their hard work and dedication, often over many years’ service to the community, I wish them well for the future.
“I would like to pay particular tribute to Julian McGhee Sumner, our previous leader who lost his seat by a narrow margin.
“At the start of this new council year your Conservative councillors are committed to work hard for the benefit of the residents of the Borough, striving to deliver good quality and value for money in all our services as set out in our manifesto. We look forward to working constructively with councillors of all parties.”
The Conservatives have to appoint a new leader and mayors will be chosen over the coming days – Wokingham Town Council will hold its mayor making ceremony on Sunday, May 19.
Additional reporting: Tony Johnson