A Reading councillor has reflected on his 50 years of service as he has been made the town’s mayor for the first time in his career.

Councillor Tony Page (Labour, Abbey) has been made Mayor of Reading for 2022-23, on the 50th anniversary year of him becoming a councillor.

Tony Page was first elected at the age of 19 for the now abolished Castle ward in 1973.

It has been a long career which has seen the evolution of Reading Buses, the foundation of The Oracle, and the rapid development of the town centre, the area he represents.

Cllr Page engaged in a wide ranging acceptance speech reflecting on his time as a student at the University of Reading, the ‘eventful times’ of the 1970s which he was elected in, and his role in the 1990s of assisting the relocation of the Reading Buses depot.

Speaking about that particular period, he said: “As chairman of Reading Buses at the time, I had a very active role in the relocation of the old bus depot, from Mill Lane to the brand new facility as it was then in Great Knollys Street, which opened in 1997.

“And that move unlocked both sides of the River Kennet and facilitated the Oracle development as we know it today, and I take a lot of pride in that.”

Cllr Page welcomed ongoing work to deliver the Station Hill redevelopment, which he said will deliver high quality residential space and public realm.

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He also celebrated the opening of the Christchurch Bridge over the Thames in 2015, despite the scepticism it had received.

Near the end of his speech, cllr Page lamented the lack of progress on any development of the Reading Prison.

He said: “In just a few short months, it will have been 10 years since the Ministry of Justice abruptly shut down Reading Prison December 2013. when all the prisoners moved out the last person. 10 years ago, that’s quite a long time.

“It was plainly obvious at the time development of such a historical site was always going to be a challenge that reality didn’t reach the government.

“Can you imagine the abuse this council would have received from ministers if we allowed such a valuable and important historical asset to deteriorate without any progress being made in determining its future in nearly 10 years, and it remains a huge disappointment.

“And I know most of you support the council lead bid to transform the former prison as a place to connect art, heritage and culture continues to lie on the table by and be protected by the government unwilling to respond to the unique opportunities of an internationally renowned Grade II listed prison sitting on top of the scheduled ancient monument right next to our town centre.

“You will be aware that the council is committed to keeping this bid alive, and while I’m stepping back from frontline politics as of this evening, you can be sure your Mayor will continue to work alongside stakeholders, councillor colleagues and community groups to lowering the MOJ to make the only choice that allow us to create something extra special for us.”

READ MORE: First new Reading station in 116 years finally opens

He then announced that his two Mayoral charities for the year, the Berkshire Refugee Support Group and the Stroke Association.

Highlighting his support for the refugee support group, Cllr Page reflected on the arrival of Ugandan fleeing Idi Amin’s regime in 1972, with those refugees arriving at Greenham Air Base.

Cllr Page was made mayor at the council’s annual general meeting on Wednesday, May 24.

Reading Chronicle: Councillor Tony Page, Mayor of Reading for 2023-24 with Cllr Glenn Dennis, Deputy Mayor. Credit: Reading Borough CouncilCouncillor Tony Page, Mayor of Reading for 2023-24 with Cllr Glenn Dennis, Deputy Mayor. Credit: Reading Borough Council

Tribute was paid to him by Jason Brock (Labour, Abbey) the council leader and cllr Karen Rowland.

Cllr Brock said: “I cannot do justice to his 50 years of service.

“He’s an outstanding teacher, a confidant without peer.”

Meanwhile, cllr Rowland praised him for being a mentor, serving with honesty and integrity, and having a ’12 hour a day’ work ethic.

Fellow cllr Glenn Dennis (Labour, Kentwood) was elected deputy mayor following nomination by cllr Mark Keeping  (Labour, Kentwood).

Both cllrs Page and Dennis accepted their roles in a interlude at Reading Town Hall, with its mighty organ being played by David Pether.