At last night’s annual meeting of council (May 22), Cllr Bill Soane was elected as Wokingham Borough Mayor for the year ahead. He takes over the chain of office from Cllr John Kaiser. Cllr Malcolm Richards was appointed Deputy Mayor for 2019/20.
The Mayor is officially the ‘first citizen’ of the borough and has 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 attending events.
In the next 12 months, Cllr Soane will attend hundreds of civic engagements as well as host a number of major events including the voluntary sector reception and the primary schools carol concert.
Traditionally, the Mayor chooses a charity to benefit from fundraising during their year in office. This year Cllr Soane has chosen to support DEBRA, which supports people suffering from Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB), a painful genetic skin blistering condition which, in the worst cases, can be fatal.
DEBRA is based in Crowthorne. It is a national charity but it provides support to lots of patients across the Wokingham Borough. DEBRA was founded in 1978 by Phyllis Hilton whose daughter Debra had Dystrophic EB – and the charity was the world’s first EB patient support group. Its aim is to help improve the quality of life of people living with any form of EB.
Cllr Bill Soane is a well-known figure within the Woodley community. He is married to Hilary and has two daughters and four grandchildren. He has been at the heart of the local community since he moved to Woodley in 1983. He served on the Woodley Carnival Committee for 23 years and joined a local Rotary Club in 2001.
Cllr Soane said: “Part of my role is to represent and promote the Wokingham Borough. For me this will be an easy task, as I truly believe our borough has so much to offer. I’m looking forward to my time as Mayor and as I travel around the borough I hope to meet as many of you as possible.
“For the past year I’ve had the good fortune to serve as Deputy Mayor and during that time I’ve enjoyed meeting many of the people and organisations in Wokingham who make such a positive difference to our lives. This is something I hope will continue.”
Cllr Soane is also a Woodley Town Councillor and held the position of Woodley Town Mayor in 2013/14. He was also a member of the Woodley War Memorial Committee. He also runs his own business in Woodley.
Cllr Bill Soane’s deputy for the year will be Cllr Malcolm Richards who has represented Norreys ward in Wokingham Town both as a town councillor and a borough councillor.
Cllr Malcolm Richards has lived in Wokingham since the late 1970s, when his family moved into the Beanoak area of Norreys. He has two children and four grandchildren. Both of his children went to local schools and they retain strong Wokingham connections.
Now retired, Cllr Richards career was spent almost entirely in the IT and business systems arena, working for major technology and business providers across many areas of commerce and industry, in both the public and private sectors, at home and abroad. He has worked in the UK, Europe, USA, Australia and Indonesia. In addition, Cllr Richards has extensive teaching experience in computing and academic subjects in both schools and colleges.
Cllr Richards has a keen interest in many of the council’s areas of responsibility, but is especially keen on planning, roads and transport, and the environment. He has held executive member positions in these areas.
Cllr Richards said: “I look forward to supporting Cllr Bill Soane in his mayoral duties, and to enable a very pleasant and healthy environment for the many residents of Wokingham Borough.”
Picture shows outgoing Mayor Cllr John Kaiser (right) congratulating new Wokingham Borough Mayor Cllr Bill Soane (left).