Richard Willis's Blog

First for local news and first for comment

A New Era Dawns for Reading Borough

Following the announcement of a Conservative / Lib Dem coalition to run Reading a lot of hard work has continued to finalise the terms of the agreement and the Cabinet that will form the administration.

It is the first time in 27 years that Labour has not formed the administration in Reading and therefore we approached the task with enthusiasm and energy, and a positive attitude.

The number of Cabinet posts has been cut to nine and the Special Responsibility Allowances have all been cut by 10%. With the Lib Dems having a total of 9 Councillors and the Conservatives 17, it was agreed that the Cabinet posts should be allocated on a 1:2 ratio.

The new Cabinet is therefore:

   Leader of the Council – Cllr Andrew Cumpsty (Cons)

   Deputy Leader of the Council – Cllr Kirsten Bayes (Lib Dem)

   Finance & Service Improvement – Cllr David Stevens (Cons)

   Communities, Voluntary Sector, Economic Development & Performance – Cllr Mike Townend (Cons)

   Culture & Sport – Cllr Tom Stanway (Cons)

   Education & Children’s Services – Cllr Mark Ralph (Cons)

   Environment & Sustainability – Cllr Warren Swaine (Lib Dem)

   Community Care, Housing & Health – Cllr Daisy Benson (Lib Dem)

   Strategic Planning & Transport – Cllr Richard Willis (Cons)

The following Chairmen of Committees were appointed:

   Licensing – Cllr Jeanette Skeats (Cons) / Vice Chmn – Cllr Glenn Goodall (Lib Dem)

   Planning – Cllr Isobel Ballsdon (Cons) / Vice Chmn – Cllr Kirsten Bayes (Lib Dem)

   Personnel – Cllr Kirsten Bayes (Lib Dem) / Vice Chmn – Cllr Tom Steele (Cons)

   Standards – Mr J Hicks / Vice Chmn – Cllr Peter Beard (Lib Dem)

In addition I was very pleased to see Cllr Jenny Rynn nominated as Deputy Mayor and therefore will normally be Mayor next year. The Mayor for this year will be Labour’s Cllr Gul Khan.

Labour were pretty subdued tonight, although they pulled the futile gesture of calling for a recorded vote on the unopposed nomination of Cllr Andrew Cumpsty as Leader of the Council. Unsurprisingly they were defeated on the vote. It was an early lesson for some of the powerlessness of opposition.


May 25, 2010 - Posted by | Local


  1. Recorded votes get in the minutes – can always be handy in the future. And pass on my best wishes and good luck to the lovely Jeanette

    Comment by Jonny | May 26, 2010 | Reply

  2. recorded vote a good idea I reckon, a couple of the appointments a little worrying though

    Comment by janestheone | May 26, 2010 | Reply

  3. Richard, Can you tell me, when will a decision be made on the relevant scrutiny panels and will we see labour, as the opposition, charing these committees?

    Comment by The Conservative Liberal | May 26, 2010 | Reply

    • We have said that the Scrutiny Panels will chose their own Chairmen. A sharp contrast from the days when Labour had a majority and they appointed the Chairmen from their own ranks (with one exception) every year.

      Comment by Richard Willis | May 26, 2010 | Reply

      • So the make up of the scrutiny panels wont change and the chairmen will be “selected” by the relevant panels? In all likelihood then we can expect that the chair will be a con-dem? Does this really offer an objective form of scrutiny?

        Comment by The Conservative Liberal | June 1, 2010

  4. Presumably Cllr Willis , you now have the opportunity to prevent roundabouts from being turned into traffic light junctions as you have previously called for.
    Indeed you said that you wanted to reverse this ……..remember ‘actions speak louder than words’!

    Comment by Howard Thomas | May 26, 2010 | Reply

    • Howard – I am always true to my word. However, you will be aware that an incoming administration is sometimes faced with irreversible decisions or a situation where to reverse or cancel a decision could incur significant penalty clauses or legal problems. We will have to look carefully at many of Labour’s decisions and Council officers are already aware of my Group’s view on most of these issues.

      Comment by Richard Willis | May 26, 2010 | Reply

  5. Watch out RIchard, as Michael Heseltine said recently on TV ” Labour in Opposition are well organised and vicious” But no doubt you know that already…what is of concern is the silent Opposition within a Council. That’s the one you need to defeat as well or rather “win” over. On a day to day basis, that is the one which will require all your efforts!

    Comment by Abbey Supporter | May 26, 2010 | Reply

    • I can assure you that we are all well aware of that. For the time being many Labour Councillors still know more about the major issues facing the Council than we do by virtue of their long unbroken rule of the Council. However senior officers are working with the Coalition lead Cllrs to bring us up to speed. So Labour’s advantage won’t last long!

      Comment by Richard Willis | May 26, 2010 | Reply

  6. I would second those best wishes and good luck from Jonny to the lovely Jeanette.

    Hate to be a pedant, but I will anyway, Labour took the Chairs of Committees, and therefore nominal control of the council, in 1986 gaining a majority in 1987. It is therefore 24 years they have controlled the council. In 1983 the Conservatives took control of the council, I believe from NOC.

    Comment by theflashingblade | May 26, 2010 | Reply

    • I stand corrected then! I had understood that Labour took minority control in 1983 and majority in 1986. If you were there and your memory is correct I will amend!

      Comment by Richard Willis | May 26, 2010 | Reply

  7. Excellent. Someone sensible in charge of Strategic Planning & Transport at last. Any chance of digging up those traffic lights and putting the roundabouts back??

    Comment by Ed | May 26, 2010 | Reply

    • Ed – thank you!

      It has been our Group policy for some time now to review traffic-lighted junctions and remove those that are unnecessary. I would also like to see a presumption in favour of roundabouts over lights, although in some cases lights are preferable on safety grounds. HOwever, do remember that we are in a coalition and therefore any changes to Council policy will need to be sold to our coalition partners as well as my own Group.

      Rest assured though, you will be seeing changes 🙂

      Comment by Richard Willis | May 26, 2010 | Reply

    • Ref comments by Ed / Cllr Willis…….If you want to look at lights/roundabouts, then for a really easy one how about the police station roundabout.
      Even supposing that you can make a case for the lights in peak periods, what the hell is the point of having them on all night and all day? I know there are pedestrian crossings that cross onto the roundabout , though why I do not know as I have never seen anyone use them!
      Removal of these lights would be the simplest of solutions……….how about it?

      Comment by Howard Thomas | May 27, 2010 | Reply

      • Howard, I used to live at the top of Castle Hill and when walking into town would often almost be run over by people like you who never saw people using the crossing. They soon woke with a kick to their door as I jumped out of their way.

        I didn’t support the new crossing as I prefer Zebra crossings, as they allow the pedestrian to cross when they want, however the lights are better than no crossing in a place where drivers never see pedestrians!

        Comment by theflashingblade | May 27, 2010

  8. Congratulations Richard. Would you like to be Mayor one day ?

    Comment by Anna | May 26, 2010 | Reply

    • Good Heavens!! I have never even thought about it.

      I think I have enough on my plate getting to grips with Transport and Strategic Planning. I hope to be doing this job for some years to come yet!

      Comment by Richard Willis | May 26, 2010 | Reply

  9. Flashingblade…….I,ve used that roundabout many times and I’ve never yet seen anyone using the crossings that go to the middle of the roundabout,and I can assure you there is nothing wrong with my eyesight!
    There is nothing wrong with having crossings on the roads approaching and exiting the roundabout and proper crossings are probably best.
    It sounds to me that if you keep getting “almost run over” then perhaps its you that ought to be paying more attention!

    Comment by Howard Thomas | May 27, 2010 | Reply

    • Having just used the roundabout I can report one teenaged lad using the crossing closely followed by a woman with four (yes FOUR) kids!

      Comment by Richard Willis | May 29, 2010 | Reply

  10. Lucky you Cllr. How about turning off the needless lights and just having crossings on the entry and exit roads?

    Comment by Howard Thomas | May 30, 2010 | Reply

  11. Life for pedestrians has ben very difficult, as some have already commented. Similarly for cyclists.

    I hope to see changes made with them in mind, not just for the car drivers.

    Comment by greenconstructionuk | May 30, 2010 | Reply

    • No problem there greenconstructionuk ….take the works that have not long been completed at the Duke st/London rd/IDR junctions costing close on half a million to try to make crossing the IDR safer as this was (might still be) the most dangerous area for pedestrians in Reading.
      For all that money it might have been worth looking at the possibility of a straight footbridge from Duke st to London rd. … that would truly help with pedestrain / cyclist safety.
      Talking of pedestrian safety, there is an obvious danger at the Cow lane bridges at the point by the southern bridge where pedestrians wait for a gap in the traffic to be able to walk under the bridge heading for the Portman rd.Vehicles have collided with the bridge at this point, fortunately as yet nobody was there at the time of collision.However the cost of erecting a barrier would be no more than a few hundred pounds which would provide a safe waiting area. When I have spoken to the council on this point the reply goes down the route of ‘there has never been a serious accident there’…….YET! These bridges are going to be there for another 3 years yet, does someone have to die before something can happen?
      Health and safety should be about seeing the danger and dealing with it BEFORE someone gets hurt!

      Comment by Howard Thomas | May 31, 2010 | Reply

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