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West Berkshire Council

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West Berkshire Council
West Berkshire Council logo
Type
Type
History
Founded1 April 1974
Leadership
Jeremy Cottam,
Liberal Democrats
since 25 May 2023[1]
Jeff Brooks,
Liberal Democrats
since 30 April 2024
Nigel Lynn
since 18 October 2021
Structure
Seats43 councillors
West Berkshire Council composition
Political groups
Administration (28)
  Liberal Democrats (28)
Other parties (15)
  Conservative (11)
  Green (2)
  Labour (1)
  Independent (1)
Committees
10
  • Overview and Scrutiny Management
  • Health Scrutiny
  • Resource Management Working Group
  • Licensing
  • District Planning
  • Eastern Area Planning
  • Western Area Planning
  • Governance and Audit
  • Personnel
  • Standards[2]
Length of term
4 years
Elections
Plurality-at-large
Last election
4 May 2023
Next election
6 May 2027
Meeting place
Council Offices, Market Street, Newbury, RG14 5LD
Website
www.westberks.gov.uk

West Berkshire Council is the local authority of West Berkshire in Berkshire, England. It is a unitary authority, having the powers of a non-metropolitan county and district council combined. West Berkshire is divided into 24 wards, electing 43 councillors.[3] The council was created in 1974 as the Newbury District Council. On 1 April 1998 it was renamed West Berkshire Council and since then has been a unitary authority, assuming the powers and functions of the abolished Berkshire County Council within the district. In the 2023 election the Liberal Democrats won 29 out of 43 seats.[4]

History[edit]

The council was formed on 1 April 1974 under the Local Government Act 1972 as the Newbury District Council. It replaced Bradfield Rural District Council, Hungerford Rural District Council, Newbury Borough Council, Newbury Rural District Council and Wantage Rural District Council.[5]

From 1974 until 1998 Newbury District Council was a lower-tier district authority, with Berkshire County Council being the upper-tier authority for the area. In 1998 Berkshire County Council was abolished and the county's six districts became unitary authorities, taking over the functions of the county council within their respective areas.[6] During the transition period the council decided to change the district's name from Newbury to West Berkshire with effect from 1 April 1998, being the same day the council became a unitary authority.[7]

In 2018, the Court of Appeal ruled that in entering a entering a development agreement with St. Modwen Properties to develop an industrial estate in Newbury, the Council had "effectively agreed to act unlawfully in the future". The disposal of the land in question was seen by the Council as a "land transaction" rather than a public works contract, and the opportunity to acquire the land was advertised so as to secure interested bids and "best consideration" in accordance with the Local Government Act 1972. The agreement allowed the developer the option to draw down land under a series of long leases, but if an option was taken up, the developer was contractually obliged to develop the site. The Court of Appeal, overruling the Administrative Court's judgment at first instance, held that such "contingent obligations" met the criteria for being considered a public works contract, whose procurement should have been undertaken in accordance with the full requirements of the Public Contracts Regulations 2015. The development agreement was ruled "ineffective".[8][9]

Governance[edit]

West Berkshire Council provides both district-level and county-level functions. The whole district is also covered by civil parishes, which form a second tier of local government.[10]

Political control[edit]

The council has been under Liberal Democrat majority control since the 2023 election.

Political control of the council since 1974 has been as follows:[11][12][13]

Newbury District Council

Party in control Years
No overall control 1974–1976
Conservative 1976–1991
Liberal Democrats 1991–1998

West Berkshire Council (unitary authority)

Party in control Years
Liberal Democrats 1998–2003
No overall control 2003–2005
Conservative 2005–2023
Liberal Democrats 2023–present

Leadership[edit]

The leaders of the council since 1999 have been:[14]

Councillor Party From To
Keith Lock[15] Liberal Democrats 1999 2001
Lena Rust[16] Liberal Democrats 2001 4 May 2003
Royce Longton Liberal Democrats May 2003 10 May 2005
Graham Jones Conservative 10 May 2005 27 Sep 2012
Gordon Lundie[17] Conservative 27 Sep 2012 5 Nov 2015
Roger Croft[18] Conservative 5 Nov 2015 24 Mar 2017
Graham Jones[19] Conservative 9 May 2017 5 May 2019
Lynne Doherty Conservative 21 May 2019 25 May 2023
Lee Dillon Liberal Democrats 25 May 2023 30 April 2024
Jeff Brooks[20] Liberal Democrats 30 April 2024 present

Composition[edit]

Following the 2023 election and a subsequent change of allegiance in October 2023, the composition of the council was:[21]

Party Councillors
Liberal Democrats 28
Conservative 11
Green 2
Labour 1
Independent 1
Total 43

The Greens, Labour and independent councillors sit together as the "Minority Group".[22] The next election is due in 2027.

Elections[edit]

Since the last boundary changes in 2019 the council has comprised 43 councillors representing 24 wards, which each ward electing one, two or three councillors. Elections are held every four years.[23]

Premises[edit]

The council's headquarters are the Council Offices on Market Street in Newbury. The building was purpose-built for Newbury District Council at a cost of £3.5 million and was completed in 1982.[24]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Council minutes, 25 May 2023". West Berkshire Council. Retrieved 20 February 2024.
  2. ^ West Berkshire Council – Your Councillors. Westberks.gov.uk. Retrieved on 2013-07-17.
  3. ^ "Your Councillors". decisionmaking.westberks.gov.uk. 5 May 2023. Retrieved 5 May 2023.
  4. ^ "West Berkshire result - Local Elections 2023". BBC News. Retrieved 5 May 2023.
  5. ^ "Local Government Act 1972", legislation.gov.uk, The National Archives, 1972 c. 70, retrieved 23 February 2023
  6. ^ "The Berkshire (Structural Change) Order 1996", legislation.gov.uk, The National Archives, SI 1996/1879, retrieved 23 February 2023
  7. ^ "Historical information from 1973 onwards". Boundary-Line support. Ordnance Survey. Retrieved 17 February 2023.
  8. ^ 11KBW, Faraday Development Ltd v West Berkshire Council: Court of Appeal gives important guidance on development agreements and options, and declares contract ineffective, published 15 November 2018, accessed 3 January 2024
  9. ^ Court of Appeal (Civil Division), Faraday Development Ltd. v West Berkshire Council, judgment dated 14 November 2018, accessed 3 January 2024
  10. ^ "Election Maps". Ordnance Survey. Retrieved 19 February 2024.
  11. ^ "Compositions calculator". The Elections Centre. Retrieved 3 March 2023.
  12. ^ "England council elections". BBC News Online. 10 May 2011. Retrieved 25 December 2014.
  13. ^ "English elect councils and mayors". BBC News Online. 7 May 2005. Retrieved 26 December 2014.
  14. ^ "Council minutes". West Berkshire Council. Retrieved 12 June 2022.
  15. ^ "Tributes continue to pour in for local councillor". Newbury Today. 17 February 2011. Retrieved 28 April 2023.
  16. ^ "West Berks Council hung - Lib Dems' 12-year grip over". Get Reading. 2 May 2003. Retrieved 12 June 2022.
  17. ^ Low, Jonathan (20 October 2015). "Gordon Lundie stepping down as leader of West Berkshire Council". Berkshire Live. Retrieved 12 June 2022.
  18. ^ Herring, John (27 March 2017). "Tributes paid to West Berkshire Council leader Roger Croft". Newbury Today. Retrieved 12 June 2022.
  19. ^ Cooper, Dan (29 December 2018). "West Berkshire Council leader to stand down in May 2019". Newbury Today. Retrieved 12 June 2022.
  20. ^ "West Berkshire Council leader Lee Dillon quits to run as MP". BBC News. 30 April 2024. Retrieved 9 July 2024.
  21. ^ "Local elections 2023: live council results for England". The Guardian.
  22. ^ "Your councillors by political grouping". West Berkshire Council. Retrieved 19 February 2024.
  23. ^ "The West Berkshire (Electoral Changes) Order 2018", legislation.gov.uk, The National Archives, SI 2018/536, retrieved 20 February 2024
  24. ^ "Builders hand over new HQ to council". Reading Evening Post. 17 March 1982. p. 7. Retrieved 23 February 2023.