At last night’s annual meeting of council, held virtually for the first time, Cllr Malcolm Richards was elected as Wokingham Borough Mayor for the coming year (2020-21). He takes over the chain of office from Cllr Bill Soane.
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.
“It’s a great honour to serve the borough where I have lived for many years,” said Cllr Richards. “These are difficult times and many of our residents are facing significant challenges. I’m truly grateful to the many of them who’ve helped others in our community and made such a positive impact on their neighbours’ lives. It just reinforces what a fantastic borough we live in. Once restrictions are further eased, I look forward to continue representing the borough and meeting as many of you as I can.”
The Mayor traditionally chooses a local charity to benefit from fundraising during their year in office. This year, Cllr Richards has chosen to support both Homestart Wokingham and First Days Wokingham. Homestart gives a range of emotional guidance, practical advice and support, to families with at least one child under five. First Days works to reduce the effects of child poverty by equipping them with essential items they need for their early years and at school, also combined with guidance. Their services are each directed at a family with children in urgent need, but the type of provision varies.
“With so much understandable and much-needed support for the NHS in recent months, I don’t want families with children to be left out when it comes to funding,” said Cllr Richards. “That’s why I’ve chosen these two fantastic local charities because they support children from birth all the way through to school and beyond.”
Cllr Richards has lived in Wokingham since the late 1970s when his family moved into the Bean Oak area of Norreys. He has two children and four grandchildren. Both his children went to local schools and they retain strong Wokingham connections.
Now retired, Cllr Richards’ career was spent almost entirely in IT and corporate systems, working for major technology and business providers across commerce and industry, both public and private sectors, at home and abroad. He has worked in the UK, Europe, USA, Australia and Indonesia. He also has extensive teaching experience in schools and colleges in computing, business and academic subjects. He has a keen interest in many of the council’s areas of responsibility, but especially in planning, roads and transport systems, and the environment - holding executive member positions in these. On a personal level he enjoys watching a range of sports including football, rugby, athletics and motor racing.
Cllr Richards’ deputy for the year is Cllr Keith Baker who 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.
“I’m very much looking forward to supporting Cllr Malcolm Richards in his mayoral duties,” said Cllr Baker. “It’s a privilege to be asked to perform this role, particularly at a time when so many people need our services and support.”