Civic pride and political legend at the Council AGM

With few exceptions, Reading’s Labour councillors were decked out in their best red outfits with red buttonholes for the council AGM. The location, pageantry and speeches wove a web of civic pride and political legend.

Before the meeting opened, the assembly stood for a minute’s silence for the victims of the attack in Manchester on the night of 22 May.

Councillor John Ennis proposed Councillor Rose Williams as mayor. This was seconded by fellow Katesgrove councillor, Matt Rodda. In his supporting speech, Councillor Ennis quoted a song by Manchester singer-songwriter Morrissey which he said he had planned to use even before the bombing incident. The song ‘I know it’s over‘ includes the lines:

It’s so easy to laugh
It’s so easy to hate
It takes guts to be gentle and kind.

He said that it was the last line which summed up Councillor Williams. He praised her work since becoming councillor for Katesgrove in 2012, describing her as a ‘proud socialist’ working for the common good.

This is not the first time that Rose Williams has served as mayor. She had been mayor during her time as councillor for Southcote in 1997; the year in which Reading became a unitary authority.

Following the formalities of the pageantry, the new mayor took to the stage to address the council, and holding out her arms said “it still fits… “, referring to the mayoral robes which she had last worn in 1998.

She looked forward to the next year which would see the 70th anniversary of the Reading Düsseldorf Association, founded by Phoebe Cusden after the Second World War. She named her charities for the year as: Reading, City of Sanctuary; Berkshire Phab, and Readipop’s samba drumming group, Beatroots.

The new mayor’s first item of council business was a vote of thanks to the outgoing mayor, Councillor Mohammed Ayub, and his daughter Rokshah Anjum Ayub (pictured at the top of this story receiving past mayor’s medals).

Councillor Ayub addressed the council saying “it would be unfair to pick out highlights from the year as every event had been special in its own way.”

Councillors Jo Lovelock and Tony Page stay as leader and deputy leader of the council respectively. There were two changes to lead councillors; Sarah Hacker takes over from Paul Gittings in culture, sport and consumer services, and John Ennis replaces Richard Davies as lead councillor for housing.

Katesgrove’s Councillor Sophia James remains chair of the housing, neighbourhoods and leisure committee.

The mayor ended the meeting with a plug for the webcasts available for most committee meetings. The next council meeting will be held on 27 June in the more mundane setting of the council chamber at the Civic Offices on Bridge Street.


  1. Council AGM 24 May 2017
  2. Reading, City of Sanctuary
  3. Berkshire Phab
  4. Readipop Beatroots
  5. Reading Borough Council webcasts

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