In his last letter to readers, in what he calls his Valedictorian message, Jason Brock, the outgoing leader of Reading Borough Council, reflects on his time at the helm and pays tribute to the councillors and members of the public he has worked with. Councillor Brock writes:

On Tuesday just gone, I officially ended my five-year term as Leader of Reading Borough Council and my near eight years as a Councillor for Southcote (a quirk of the Local Government Act 1972 is that terms don’t quite coincide with election dates). Naturally, I’m delighted that my departure comes alongside another strong demonstration of the electorate’s confidence in Labour’s ability and its ambitions for Reading.

Leaving public office is a peculiar thing, and I suspect almost anyone in my position finds themselves in receipt of both praise and criticism.

Those who know me best will know that I am very bad at receiving and accepting praise (something about lacking a sense of pride in accomplishments… although I mask it neatly with good humour), but I do appreciate the residents who took the time to write or speak to me; it means a lot that you went to the effort.

More people will know of my sense of mischief in response to criticism, and I shall forever lament that the electoral demographic I could not crack was men in their 40s and upwards who enjoy using anonymous Twitter accounts. Nevertheless, I am grateful to those who discouraged me from sending them each a ‘Roy of the Rovers’ annual last Christmas as a final roll of the dice to secure their affections.

Although I can be a self-effacing figure, the most enjoyable element of my role has been meeting so many residents, hearing their stories, and doing whatever I could to help make their lives just a little bit better by helping find a resolution to their issues (often I tried to get their bins collected on time, albeit with mixed success). A great many hours during evenings and at weekends have been spent at community events and in community-led meetings, and I think the efforts that people in our town put into such things on a purely voluntary basis is a marvel to behold.

Setting aside my self-reflective psychological profiling, I should really pay some tribute to those to whom I owe debts of gratitude. Regrettably, they are too numerous to cover, so I must single out the professional debts to two excellent Council Chief Executives – Peter Sloman and Jackie Yates – and two exemplary Deputy Leaders of the Council – Tony Page and Liz Terry – for special mention. The Councillor Services team also warrant the highest of praise, especially Kate, who has spent the last five years reminding me to eat, sleep, drink, and dress myself. More seriously, her team underpins the ability of councillors to do their casework on behalf of residents and fulfil the democratic mandate from the electorate, and they do so with far greater humour than should be possible when dealing with the ego of a local politician.

I am naturally also hugely appreciative of every single councillor and all the Council staff with whom I’ve worked, directly or indirectly. Similarly, every partner I’ve worked with – whether public sector, private enterprise, or voluntary and community organisation – deserves recognition from me. Those to whom I am personally indebted should already know… but do complain to me if not.

Council Leadership (any leadership, really) is about convening a team, not about managing processes and people. I’m pleased to have been at the table to represent the Council during an extremely busy, and often distressing, half-decade. I think that the town, and the Council, is improved in a great many ways, even though circumstance has often been against us.

That does not mean everything has been to my satisfaction, nor that there is not a great deal more I should have liked to have done. But I’ve always tried to keep true to my desire that Reading, and its residents, should be ambitious while also seeking to ensure that success is equitably shared – I hope that fundamental principle remains a constant. My successor will have their own vision, and I hope that they have fewer pandemics and crises than I did so that they can pursue it with vigour. And, funnily enough, I very much look forward to seeing that vision, and the town, evolve.