In her first address to Reading Chronicle readers, councillor Liz Terry, the presumptive new leader of Reading Borough Council, thanks Labour Party colleagues for their trust, and pays tribute to the work of outgoing leader Jason Brock. Cllr Terry writes:

“Thank you to everybody in Reading who took the time to vote in the local elections a fortnight ago. I never underestimate the trust residents put in local Councillors to represent the best interests of their local community. And while it’s fair to say that as Councillors we are all forced to deal in the art of the possible - that is what we can rather than what we want much of the time - whoever you voted for locally I believe has the best interests of Reading at heart.

The Local Election result reinforced Labour as the largest political group on the Council, with four times as many seats as the next largest party.

What does change this year, however, is that the Council will have a new Leader after Cllr Brock’s decision to step aside, and it will be my honour and privilege to take up the post after a vote by Labour Group colleagues last week. Jason’s shoes are big ones to fill - both metaphorically and literally – and I think it is right to acknowledge the Leadership he showed during some very trying circumstances for our town over the past five years.

A little bit about me. I was born in the Royal Berkshire Hospital and I have lived in Reading all my life, attending Christ the King primary school and Blessed Hugh Farringdon secondary school as a child.

I’m guessing there aren’t too many Council Leaders whose career started at that same Council, but that is the case for me, which makes taking on the job as Council Leader in my hometown even more special. After having my first child, mum had had just taken redundancy from Gillette’s and had agreed to look after the baby while I tried to find work. It was 1985 and the local Job Centre sent me to the old Civic Centre for an interview as a temporary pay and display clerk. Thankfully, I was successful. That job really opened my eyes to the sheer breadth and variety of support and services a local Council provides to people in the community which, unless you or a family member are the recipient of those services, most people won’t necessarily think about.

That first job also convinced me that working to provide services for local people was what I wanted to do, and I have been lucky enough since then to progress my career to eventually become Assistant Chief Executive at Slough Borough Council and Executive Director at Oldham Metropolitan Council. I then changed direction to become the Chief Executive of Berkshire Women’s Aid for seven years, tackling violence against women and supporting all victims of domestic abuse, a subject still very close to my heart. I also became a local ward Councillor for Coley Ward back in 2012 and have been ever since.

The reality, of course, is that a lot of the population won’t necessarily know who their local Council Leader is. Understandably, they are more concerned with the things which affect them day-to-day, whether that is bin collections, potholes, finding somewhere affordable to live, a good school for their children or caring for an elderly parent. Those are the basics provided by all local councils. Its why this job is such a big responsibility and one I will never take for granted. Those services are of course provided against a backdrop of financial challenges which are affecting all councils of all political colours. A reminder that in Reading high inflation and increased in demand for essential services are behind a £20 million increase in Council costs this year alone.

As a local ward Councillor, Lead Councillor and, until next week, Deputy Leader, I am hugely proud of what Reading continues to deliver in that context, whether it is our record investment in new road surfaces, hundreds of new affordable homes, brand new leisure facilities, improved cycle and pedestrian routes and new facilities and housing for older and vulnerable residents.

In the not-too-distant future Reading will go to the polls again, this time for a General Election, which I sincerely hope will result a long overdue change of Government and one which properly values public services and the essential role they play in our communities.”