At last week’s annual meeting of council Cllr Keith Baker was elected as Wokingham Borough Mayor for the coming year (2021-22). He takes over the chain of office from Cllr Malcolm Richards.
The Mayor is officially the ‘first citizen’ of the borough with a civic role, representing the council and the people of the borough as well as presiding over borough council meetings. Unless Her Majesty the Queen or her representative is in attendance, the Mayor takes precedence over any other dignitaries at events.
Great honour and privilege
Cllr Baker said: “It is a great honour and privilege to have the opportunity to represent our fantastic Borough as Mayor. I am very much looking forward to the year ahead. The past year has been extremely challenging for everyone. There isn’t one person in our borough that has not been affected. I would like to thank everyone for their incredible hard work and commitment to the Wokingham Borough during the pandemic.
“As restrictions start to ease, I hope I will be able to get out and about and meet many of the people and organisations in Wokingham Borough, who not only make our borough a great place to live and work, but also make such a positive impact in the heart of our community.”
Cllr Keith Baker has represented Coronation ward in Woodley since 2006. He has been leader of Woodley Town Council since 2011 and has held a variety of senior roles in the borough council including leader, executive member for both highways and planning and chairman of the Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee. For more than a decade has been a school governor at Addington School, one of the best special needs schools in the country. In June 2019, he was awarded an MBE for his contribution to public and political services.
Cllr Baker is a well-known figure within Woodley after living there for nearly three decades together with his wife of 21 years. Now retired, he worked as a marketing manager for a computer networking company having spent more than 30 years in the IT industry in a variety of roles covering the UK, Europe and worldwide. He has six grandchildren with two families living locally and one in New York, USA.
His interests are wide and varied - he says he follows most sports from the comfort of his armchair, with rugby his favourite. His other love is the theatre. A previous chairman of Woodley Light Operatic Society, he spent 20 years helping local youth theatre group Starmaker as assistant stage manager.
The Mayor traditionally chooses a local charity to benefit from fundraising during their year in office. This year, Cllr Baker has chosen Chance to Dance Stars CIC, a dance school for students and families in the disabled community, to support. Chance to Dance opened in Reading in 2013 with two classes running every fortnight and this has now expanded in 2021 to nine classes taking place between Reading, Coley and Bracknell.
There is a class a specifically for wheelchair dancers and dance movement classes that cater for students who require extra physical support in order for them to get the maximum benefit from the class. The other six classes are split by many factors such as age, physical level, communication, ability to follow instructions and overall concentration.
Cllr Baker added: “I have chosen this charity as it combines two of my passionate interests namely the performing arts and providing new opportunities for children with special needs.”
Deputy Mayor appointed
Cllr Baker’s deputy for the year is Cllr Abdul Loyes, who represents Loddon Ward. He has lived in the Wokingham Borough since 1976 and is married to Nina with three children, two of whom have graduated from university and the youngest who is due to graduate later this year.
As well as being a local councillor, Cllr Loyes also runs his own restaurant business, is a property investor and is trustee of both a local and national charity. Elected in 2019, he has previously represented Loddon Ward on the borough council from 2006-2010 and 2011-2019. During his time as a councillor, Cllr Loyes has set on numerous committees and has helped local people concerned about issues ranging from planning to bus services to anti-social behaviour.
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