I WOULD like to thank everybody in Reading who took the time to vote in the local elections earlier this month.

No matter what your political persuasion is, there has never been more important time for residents to make their voices heard when it comes to how public services are delivered.

Now that the dust has settled, a look at the new make-up of the council reminds me just how much things have changed over the years I have been involved in local politics.

Of the 46 elected councillors now in Reading, 25 are women and 21 are men. That is a remarkable contrast to when I was first elected when there were far fewer female politicians, both locally and nationally.

It is great credit to every single elected councillor, and to Reading itself, that the town has elected a more inclusive council.

We have more to do. We have six councillors of black or Asian heritage and I am particularly pleased that Katesgrove Ward’s Sophia James will be joining the Labour front bench.

However people of African or Caribbean heritage are very under-represented and we need to address that.

Sadly, hardworking Glenn Dennis, who would have been Reading’s first black mayor, lost his seat by just 6 votes. I very much hope we will see Glenn continue his involvement in local politics and return to the council as soon as possible.

One of the biggest success stories of the night, and probably the one that made the most headlines, was that of Ellie Emberson who, aged 19, has been elected as Labour councillor for Minster Ward. She is the youngest-ever female candidate to contest a council seat in Reading.

Ellie was involved in Reading’s youth cabinet when she was still at school and followed that up to become the Member of Youth Parliament for Reading the following year.

She was very impressive back then campaigning on important issues like mental health, education and careers advice for young people.

I also remember her speaking very confidently and passionately at a council meeting on why young people should be given the vote at 16.

I remember thinking then she would go far and I really welcome her as a member of the Labour group and hope her election will encourage more young people to get involved in politics.

As the newly elected council begins its work for the coming year I am encouraged that we will have new, more diverse voices to contribute to the council’s agenda and I hope that will motivate people from all backgrounds to consider getting involved in politics.