With all-out elections on new boundaries coming in May we have a larger number of councillors standing down than usual and I want to take this opportunity to thank them all. 

We say goodbye to my Liberal Democrat colleagues, Wescott councillor Peter Dennis, Embrook councillor Morag Malvern, and Barkham councillor Ian Pittock. All these councillors worked hard on committees and as effective champions of their wards. 

Three more departing colleagues from my own side served with great distinction on the executive this last two years. Lindsay Ferris earlier served as leader of the opposition, laying the foundations for the creation of the current administration.

Sarah Kerr brought great passion, drive, and commitment, especially on climate change and violence against women and girls. Ian Shenton’s sharp business brain enabled him to analyse complex problems with great clarity. 

Clive Jones, my immediate predecessor, piloted the council through the financial storm with great skill in 2022-23.

On the Conservative side, we are losing South Lake councillor Laura Blumenthal. She shadowed me on affordable housing and shared my commitment to helping everyone in the borough to have a decent home.

Wargrave councillor Graham Howe previously served as the Conservatives’ executive member for children’s services. Another previous executive member, Pauline Helliar-Symons, who was also a former mayor, is standing down after an incredible forty-two years’ service.  

Two former Conservative council leaders are leaving us. Keith Baker was a shrewd and very effective opponent, and also served with distinction as an impressively fair-minded mayor.

John Halsall led the council in his own inimitable style and with much good judgement through the difficult years of Covid.

Finally, I must pay tribute to Gary Cowan, an independent councillor, who has moved from political adversary to ally and back to adversary over the years. He has always been a staunch defender of Arborfield and someone I have come to regard as a friend despite our differences.

I thank all of these councillors for their public service.