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Promote youth, Tories told as leader search continues

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Following his decision to step down as council leader last week, Graham Jones (Con, Lambourn) has sparked the opposition into life ahead of September’s meeting to decide his replacement with the ageing make-up of the council cabinet coming under fire.
Newbury Labour party spokesman Richard Garvie, said new plans and new ideas were needed to revamp a stale and ageing party that had become detached from today’s young people as voters and as members with any influence.
"One might say that the reason the average age of the district continues to go up is because the councillors are looking at things from their own personal perspective, rather than consulting properly with the people that they represent,” he said.
“With the majority of councillors being at or close to retirement age, what are they doing to provide for younger generations? Up to now, they have simply axed the majority of youth service provision and cut other services that families and young people rely on.
“This is something the new leader must focus on if they are to correct the mistakes of the previous leader, and certainly something they must achieve if they want to be seen as anything other than a lapdog of the civil servants at the council.”
The leader of the Liberal Democrats, Jeff Brooks (Thatcham West) added that the Conservatives were in disarray at the helm with no stand-out forerunner.
“The younger members like Emma Webster, Marcus Franks and Gordon Lundie were brought to the front bench then relegated back. I can’t see anyone not on the executive coming in and taking over, but they are in need of real fresh blood,” he said.
Mr Jones, aged 47, batted away the criticism as “silly season” jibes.
”Conservative councillors span a huge age range from 30s through till some very active 70 year olds,” he said
“We are constantly listening. For example the budget simulator proved to be a great success not just in listening to people but also guiding a number of difficult decisions.
“Last year the public were asked they wanted to run the council and they overwhelmingly chose the conservatives and rejected Labour. Last week, in Thatcham South, Labour failed to give the public the option of voting for one of their candidates of any age.”
“The notion that somehow WBC is trying to make the age profile of the district older is incredible and daft. As a nation we have an ageing population.”
Mr Jones announced last week he was to step down to concentrate on his business affairs.
He has led West Berkshire Council for seven years.
The Conservatives will hold a private vote before the new member is presented to the council for approval on September 27.

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