John Halsall has been elected as the new leader of Wokingham Borough Council (WBC) after Conservative and Independent councillors came together to vote for his premiership.

Yesterday the News reported Cllr Halsall had been selected as the new leader of the Wokingham Conservative group after Julian McGhee-Sumner lost his seat at the local elections earlier this month. 

Now the ward member for Remenham, Wargrave and Ruscombe will take to the authority’s helm, becoming the third Tory leader of WBC in little more than six months. 

Speaking exclusively to the News about the direction the council will take under his leadership, Cllr Halsall promised to focus on challenging housing developments, reducing congestion and improving residents’ services at the authority. 

But he told the News the primary goal on his agenda was to tackle climate change in the borough, after revealing a ‘residents’ services and climate emergency’ post had been specially created to address concerns around this issue.

This comes after more than 100 residents have signed a petition calling for WBC to declare a climate emergency

He said: “We are starting a stream of work to be carbon neutral by 2030. If we don’t do something on global warming now, other agendas will disappear altogether. 

“There are many things we can do to get there - we can do something about the air quality in Wokingham town centre and in Twyford, we can green the borough and protect the countryside, we can increase the amount of stuff we recycle and we can do something about single use plastics.”

In his last speech before failing to regain his seat, former leader Julian McGhee-Sumner outlined plans to issue a consultation to residents asking if they were happy with government imposed housing numbers, to which recipients can reply with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer.

Cllr Halsall, who was part of a group which opposed housing developments on the borough's Green Belt, confirmed these plans were still in place, adding the consultation distribution was “imminent”.

On the issue of overdevelopment in the borough, he said: “We will confront housing numbers. We will stand up to the housing companies to deliver homes for medium and low income families and we will put the local plan update to bed in the next two months.

“Principally, we are only there to serve our residents and nothing else. Residents have to come at the heart of everything we do. That means if we are in disagreement with government you have to be on the side of the residents.”

In his maiden speech at council, Cllr Halsall added: “In the last 20 years the impact of climate change has changed our world. 

“If we don’t take dramatic action in the next decade we could face irresversible change. 

“Therefore it is my intention that this administration brings forward a motion to declare a climate emergency. 

“This council commits to playing a full role as possible in achieving a carbon neutral Wokingham borough by 2030.

“It may be considered as jumping on the bandwagon but we have a duty to take this on.”

On housing, he added: “We aim to challenge housing numbers through consultation.

“This administration will do all it can to challenge housing numbers.”

The new leader also announced his cabinet, which included a number of surprises. 

Find out which councillors have been appointed to new roles here.