The new leader of Wokingham Borough Council (WBC) has announced his new cabinet - and there are a number of surprise inclusions in his top team.

One shock sees councillor Charlotte Haitham Taylor - who was booted out of leader of her party in November 2018 - return to the front bench as the member overseeing the town’s regeneration. 

Pauline Jorgensen has been ousted as deputy leader of the council to make way for former Mayor John Kaiser, who will also take on WBC’s finance and housing affairs.

Councillor John Halsall, who was elected as leader of the council on Wednesday, May 22, has also brought in independent councillors Gary Cowan and Richard Dolinski to assist his Tory front bench.

He also revealed at his first meeting as leader that he had spoken to opposition councillors from the Liberal Democrats about joining his cabinet, but said this was a “step too far at this time.”

Speaking exclusively to the News, he said: “It is a very inclusive team that includes councillors from the independent group. 

“I’m really just a coach and an enabler - my leadership style is not dictatorial. The style will be very much a team style and making sure everybody is on side”

Both independent councillors were formerly members of the council’s Conservative group but both left the Tories after disagreements with their party in recent years. 

Cllr Cowan, who has been increasingly vocal in his opposition to overdevelopment in the borough at several council debates, will sit as the deputy executive member for planning and enforcement, where he will be working with Cllr Wayne Smith as the lead member. 

Until November 2018 Cllr Richard Dolinski had been in charge of the authority’s adult social care matters, when he quit after Cllr Charlotte Haitham Taylor was forced out as leader. 

Tory councillor Charles Margetts will now look after WBC’s adult social care issues, but Cllr Dolinski will join him as his deputy, marking a return to the department he left more than six months ago. 

Newcomers Gregor Murray and Michael Firmager will also join the authority’s top team, after both were elected as new Conservative candidates at this month’s local elections. 

The former will have the responsibility of managing the newly created residents’ services and climate emergency department, whereas the latter will be deputy to Cllr Parry Batth in looking after the council’s environment and leisure programme. 

Full list of executive and deputy executive members at Wokingham Borough Council: 

Leader - John Halsall

Deputy leader - John Kaiser

Adult social care - Charles Margetts (lead); Richard Dolinski (deputy)

Business, economic development and strategic planning - Stuart Munro (lead); Barrie Patman (deputy)

Children’s services - UllaKarin Clark (lead); Graham Howe (deputy)

Environment, leisure and libraries - Parry Batth (lead); Michael Firmager (deputy)

Finance and housing - John Kaiser (lead); Daniel Sargeant (deputy)

Highways and transport - Pauline Jorgensen (lead); Malcolm Richards (deputy)

Planning and enforcement - Wayne Smith (lead); Gary Cowan (deputy)

Regeneration - Charlotte Haitham Taylor (lead); Dianne King (deputy)

Residents’ services and climate emergency - Gregor Murray (lead); Laura Blumenthal (deputy)