COUNCILLOR Charlotte Haitham Taylor has RESIGNED from her position as leader of Wokingham Borough Council.

The news follows months of speculation about division amongst the Wokingham Conservative group.

In a statement Cllr Charlotte Haitham Taylor said: “Yesterday evening I met with the Wokingham Borough Conservative Group. The discussion focused on the direction in which I have been leading the council with my executive team and it was clear that there is a significant difference of opinion.

“On this occasion, it is with regret I did not win the argument and following a vote by the group, they will now be seeking to appoint a new leader, who reflects more closely their views and values.

“At the next full council meeting on Thursday 22nd November, I will make a personal statement at the beginning of the meeting, before I formally tender my resignation as the leader of the council.

Until I make my statement to the full council, I have no further comments to make.”

One source told the News that more than 30 of the 42 Conservative councillors at Wokingham Borough Council sent letters declaring no confidence in the leader, but the Conservative group denied this.

It was suggested that Cllr Haitham Taylor resigned after members of the group took a vote of no confidence in her, at a meeting which lasted half an hour.

This was followed by a group discussion which spanned several hours. 

Her tenure as leader has been rocky after Cllr Baker and Cllr Julian McGhee-Sumner resigned from their roles as executive member for highways and executive member for finance respectively. 

Despite repeated assertions that one of the group's councillors would fill the executive member for finance role, the position has been vacant since Cllr McGhee-Sumner's resignation in September. 

Manjeet Gill left her position as Interim Chief Executive in October after it became apparent that some of the Conservative group were not happy with her leadership.

Cllr Pauline Jorgensen, who was made deputy leader of the council in September 2017, will assume the position of acting leader of the Wokingham Conservative group, but Cllr Haitham Taylor will remain leader of the council until a successor is found. 

Nominations are expected to be submitted over coming days and the Wokingham Conservative group will vote for a new leader soon, but not before the next full council meeting on Thursday, November 22. 

Cllr Pauline Jorgensen refused to be drawn on whether she would put herself forward for the position of leader.

She told the News: "I really enjoyed working with Charlotte and I would to thank her for all the hard work she did."

Leader of the opposition Liberal Democrats councillor Lindsay Ferris said: "The leader's resignation shows the state of the Conservatives locally.

"The council has stalled. 

"This is a sign of a local party that is divided, that is lacking any ideas and that has lost its way. They can't agree amongst themselves.

"We have been pushing alternatives like we did on the Wokingham town centre. 

"We will be putting a number of alternatives forward over the coming months."

Speaking about Cllr Haitham Taylor, he added: "I got on well with Charlotte and I found her much easier to get on with than previous Conservative leaders. 

"She was much more willing to work other political parties."

Labour councillor Andy Croy said: "It is not a surprise and the administration has been drifting for several months now. 

"She has unable to to fill key positions and I am not particularly confident the next leader will be able to either. 

"The problem any leader has is chronic underfunding of local government by the Tory national party nationally. 

"It is like strapping the deckchairs on the Titanic!"

Cllr Charlotte Haitham Taylor became leader in May 2017 after ousting former leader Cllr Keith Baker. 

When asked whether he would be running for leader after a spell away, Cllr Keith Baker told the News: "I will not be putting my hat in the ring.

"I have done my stint and there is no way I will be putting myself forward."