Reading Borough Council is set to see a lot of fresh blood as a number of current councillors are retiring (at least for now).

The election season is upon us in Reading, with the entirety of the borough council up for election this year.

A total of 12 councillors have opted to stand down ahead of the Local Elections 2022.

It means that once the votes are counted and the winners are declared on Thursday, May, there will be fresh faces.

Of the 12 retiring councillors this year, seven of them are from the Labour party, three are Conservatives, one is a Liberal Democrat and one is an Independent who was elected as a Labour candidate.

Tribute was paid to these councillors at the last full council meeting on March 22.

The seven Labour councillors were thanked for their service by councillor Jaon Brock, the leader of the council.

You can see a full list of councillors retiring below:

Jeannette Skeats 

Councillor Jeannette Skeats, a Conservative councillor for Thames ward, is standing down after served as a councillor for 26 years.

She until recently lead the Conservative group, which is now been taken on by cllr Clarence Mitchell.

Cllr Skeats said: “I was first elected in 1996, and I felt  a bit like bambi in the headlights.

“It’s been an honour and a privilege. It’s been life changing. There have been many changes, but there has been a constant, that I always relied on, and that’s the service of the officers.”

Addressing fellow councillors, she said: “I believe in our hearts that we want what’s best for Reading. I shall take it away with me, you’ll be friends for life.”

A special meeting is due to take place to consider cllr Skeats an alderwoman of Reading, alongside alderman candidates Tony Jones and Joe Williams.

Sophia James

Cllr Sophia James is stepping down after three terms, being the first Black woman in Reading to be elected as a councillor in 2014.

She called her ward of Katesgrove “home to the most active community in Reading.”

In a speech to full council on March 22, she said highlights of being a councillor included speaking at Black Lives Matter protests in 2020, helping to change Thames Valley Police policy on stop and search, and bringing back Reading Carribean Carnival in 2017.

Cllr James also worked on organising Reading Pride and LGBT+ History Month.

She has chaired a number of committees, most recently the adult social care, children’s services and education committee and the access and disabilities working group.

Cllr James said: “It’s been one of the best moments of my life.”

She is now focusing on her work as head of student recruitment and widening participation at Buckinghamshire New University.

Ayo Sokale 

Cllr Ayo Sokale will be leaving the council after becoming one of the youngest women councillors in Reading’s history in 2019.

She recently became deputy mayor in November last year.

Cllr Brock called her “a bundle of energy.”

He added: “She’s applied herself wonderfully in to leading the Plastic Free Caversham initiative in particular, as well as doing sterling service at The Weller Centre during the pandemic.

Cllr Brock  said: “I’m entirely certain cllr Sokale will continue to have a very successful career, the kind of career that will let us all name drop one day that we were once on the council with her.”

Ashley Pearce

Cllr Ashley Pearce, a Labour member for Church ward, is standing down after serving three terms on the council.

He has been the lead councillor for education for the last four years.

Cllr Brock said: “He’s done an incredible job in building relationships between the council and the borough’s schools, especially during the challenges of the pandemic.

“I think the headteachers will miss him as much as the [Labour] group will.”

Daya Pal Singh

Cllr Daya Pal Singh is stepping down after serving three terms as a councillor for Kentwood in Tilehurst.

Paying tribute to his service, cllr Brock said: “He’s been a great representative for his residents, securing many improvements to roads, play equipment and so on, and has been a prominent voice for the Sikh community on the council.”

David Absolom

Cllr David Absolom is standing down after serving two terms as a Labour representative for Redlands.

Cllr Brock credited him for being a ‘superb chair’ of the Strategic Environment, Planning and Transport (SEPT) Committee and the  adult social care, children’s services and education committee.

Cllr Brock also thanked cllr Absolom for guiding him when he was a “young, keen and less grey vice-chair” of SEPT.

Debs Absolom

Cllr Debs Absolom, a Labour member for Norcot is stepping down alongside her husband David after being elected in 2018.

Cllr Brock said: “I hope both of them have a very happy time away from the council especially as they have exciting plans in the future.”

He also recalled how cllr Debs Absolom was chair of SEPT when he had the idea of rebranding the Hosier Street redevelopment framework the Minster Quarter.

Rose Williams

Cllr Rose Williams, a Labour representative for Katesgrove, is stepping down after serving 24 years on the council.

She was elected mayor in 1997-98 and from 2017-18.

Cllr Brock called her “the Southcote soul in a Katesgrove muzzle”, as she has represented both wards, most recently for Katesgrove.

Cllr Brock said she has been a “champion of the community” adding: “She’s been one of those members who’s formed the backbone of the council’s committees.

“I enjoy a natter with her in the group room and I will miss her greatly.”

Ricky Duveen 

Long serving Liberal Democrat councillor Ricky Duveen, representative for Tilehurst, is standing down  after first getting onto the council at a by-election in 2006.

He has served four terms in total, and has been a prominent member of the planning committee.

Although he lost his seat in 2018 in controversy over approving the plan for the Zainabiya Islamic Centre, he regained it in 2019.

Cllr Duveen said: “It’s been an honour and a privilege.

“I’ve met so many nice people, it’s quite an amazing place Tilehurst, hopefully we will keep looking after it with Liberal Democrat representatives on the council.”

Chris Maskell 

Cllr Chris Maskell will be standing down after many years on the council.

He previously served as mayor in 2007-08.

He became something of a renegade when he left the Labour party earlier this year.

Paying tribute to his service, cllr Sarah Hacker (Labour, Battle) said: “He inspired me to become a councillor.

“Being his fellow councillor has been very special, and we thank him from the bottom of our hearts.

“He will always love Reading and the ward he was born in.”

His achievements include seeing £1.6 million of investment in his ward, the refurbishment of Battle Library, the Cow Lane bridge project, welcoming new residents at the former Battle Hospital site and seeing the construction of the Abu Bakr Islamic Centre, Reading’s first purpose built Mosque.

Jane Stanford-Beale 

Cllr Jane Stanford-Beale, a Conservative representative for Peppard ward, is stepping down after serving on the council for 10 years.

At the last full council meeting on  March 22, she said: “My proudest moment of being part of the council was when we agreed to declare our climate emergency, we were one of the early adopters of this.”

Addressing all councillors, she added: “You are all part of team Reading, you all own the bus company, so when you’re out campaigning, just remind people about how fantastic our bus service is?

“If we could just get one per cent of car drivers out of their vehicles onto our buses we would see a 29 per cent increase in passenger numbers.”

Helen Manghnani 

Cllr Helen Manghnani, a Conservative representative for Tilehurst, is standing down after being elected in 2018.

Cllr Mitchell (Conservative, Peppard) said: “She has been a staunch voice for Tilehurst.

“A paper candidate, who frankly, didn’t expect to get elected, she’d be the first person to tell you that!

“We were very pleased she did, she’s a sterling voice for Tilehurst.

“She’s also kept us fed in the [Conservative] group with her samosas and spring rolls, we’re very grateful to her.”