WOKINGHAM Borough Council has a new Conservative leader following a narrow victory last night.

Charlotte Haitham Taylor won 23 votes to 21, deposing Keith Baker as leader of the party, following a Conservative Group meeting on Monday, May 8.

Annual Council will take place on May 18, where the new leader of the council will be elected.

Cllr Charlotte Haitham Taylor said: “I am delighted and humbled my Conservative colleagues at Wokingham Borough Council have chosen me to be the new leader of the group.

"I would like to thank our outgoing leader for his very considerable contribution to this Borough's success during the past three years.

"I, and the majority of the Conservative Group, felt that now was the right time for fresh, energetic leadership to tackle the many challenges facing the council over the next few years, not least around funding and the inevitable uncertainties of Brexit.

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“I look forward to being able to start selecting my new top team, from our many talented councillors.

"There is much hard work to be done and I cannot wait to get started after Annual Council should I be elected as Leader of the Council.

"It would be a privilege and an honour to serve our Borough and our residents in this new capacity. I am certain that my past five years' experience as executive member for Children's Services - one of the most complex roles in Local Government - would stand me in good stead for the demanding times ahead.”

The Conservative councillor for Shinfield South, who was elected in May 2010, has beaten the long-serving member nearly three years after he was elected into the role.

Cllr Baker has been a borough councillor since 2006 and has served as an executive member for various boards in his time.

His predecessor, David Lee, stepped down in 2014, leading to the former highways chief being elected in May 2014.

Clive Jones, Liberal Democrat, said: "There is a new leader of Wokingham Borough Council. Last night Keith Baker was assassinated.

"The director of children's services, Charlotte Haitham Taylor, won by 23 votes to 21.

"For me, this shows there is no clear prefered candidate among the Conservative party, but it also shows people are fed up with Cllr Baker.

"I don't really think it will change anything. Cllr Haitham Taylor voted for the Grazeley development to go ahead in the first instance and she is making it hard for constituents to contact her over the Shinfield quarry plans.

"There is by no stretch of the imagination a clear favourite, as the outcome shows, which is bad news for the Conservatives."

Cllr Baker came under fire in recent months for waste disposal charges at Re3 sites, as well as leaked plans to build 15,000 homes in Grazeley.

There was also criticism directed at the new leader of the Conservatives after she agreed to plans to expand three primary schools, despite fears from parents about excessive traffic in Woodley and Earley.

Keith Baker refused to comment.