Saturday, March 2, 2024
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West Berkshire Council – new cabinet announced

It is all change at West Berkshire Council – with the incoming Liberal Democrats announcing a restructure of who does what.

The leadership has pledged more open and inclusive politics than the previous Tory administration, even offering key roles to opposition councillors.

“Let’s see if we can all get along and work together,” said Lib Dem leader Lee Dillon (Thatcham North East).

The Lib Dems ousted the Tories from power at the local council elections last week, and now hold 29 of the 43 seats, with 11 Tories, two Greens and one Labour.

The previous administration was made up of 24 Conservatives, 16 Lib Dems and three Greens.

Mr Dillon  has appointed Jeremy Cottam (Thatcham North East) as council chairman, and Jeff Brooks (Thatcham West) stays as his deputy, as well as taking over as portfolio lead for government and transformation.

Tony Vickers (Hungerford and Kintbury) heads planning and community engagement.   

The Lib Dems pledged to bring back community forums, and, says Mr Dillon, they think planning is where most community interaction takes place.

There are three women in the Lib Dem cabinet, all new electees to the council.

Denise Gaines (Hungerford and Kintbury) takes over at highways and housing, Heather Codling (Chievely and Cold Ash), a former teacher and girl Guide leader for 20 years, will head children, education and young people services.

And Janine Lewis (Tilehurst and Purley) will lead on public health culture, leisure, sport and countryside 

Ian Cottingham (Thatcham Central) takes on finance and corporate resources, while Adrian Abbs (Wash Common) has climate action, recycling and biodiversity.

Alan Macro (Theale) has adult social care and integrated health and Martin Colston (Newbury Central) takes on regeneration, growth and strategy development – to include master plans,  economic and strategy development 

“There are loads of stratigies across the council which don’t link… so that is a key part of this role,” explained Mr Dillon.

He said he wanted an opposition councillor running the council’s overview and scrutiny committee, and that there would be more advisory groups with councillors from other parties in vice chair roles.

“We are still having an exec system but delivered in much more collaborative style than we have seen before at West Berks,” he said.

The council leader gets officially voted in on May 25, with the executive committee appointed, meaning the council gets back up and running with committees from May 26.

Ross MacKinnon (Bradfield) takes over as Tory group leader after previous chief Lynne Doherty lost her Speen seat last week.