The Royal Borough’s newly elected council leader says empowering officers and councillors will be key traits of his leadership as the council embarks on a ‘fresh start’.
On Monday Cllr Simon Dudley (Con, Riverside) announced he would be replacing Cllr David Burbage (Con, Bray), who recently resigned following allegations of bullying by the borough’s managing director Alison Alexander.
The Conservative Group voted the 51-year-old into the council’s top post at a private meeting on Monday.
“This wasn’t in my game plan to be honest,” Cllr Dudley said.
“But when the situation arose, I thought that I would be able to provide that continuity, strong leadership, firm direction and work with our fantastic officers and strong team of councillors.”
Opposition councillors criticised the style of leadership in the council last week with Cllr Malcolm Beer (Old Windsor Residents Association, Old Windsor) saying ‘it’s so autocratic that it’s verging on dictatorship’.
But Cllr Dudley told the Advertiser he planned to ‘empower both officers and councillors’ by giving them increased responsibility.
He added: “My style of leadership will be very different to David Burbage. I’m a far more relaxed kind of person.
“I see myself as more of a quarterback if you look at American football. I’ll throw a pass to someone and expect them to run with the ball.”
But it is golf that could hold the key to addressing the borough’s housing demands according to the new council leader.
The Advertiser understands the Royal Borough has made an offer to buy Maidenhead Golf Club out of the remaining 23 years of its lease to free up the land for housing.
An announcement on the future of the Shoppenhangers Road site will be ‘made in due course’ according to Cllr Dudley, but he admitted the borough’s huge land holdings at sites like the golf club could be used to meet the borough’s housing targets.
Cllr Dudley said he hopes to protect ‘as much greenbelt land as we can’ but admitted ‘there are always trade-offs’.
Social housing, affordable rent, shared ownership and starter homes are all ideas the borough’s new leader wants to pursue.
And Cllr Dudley said he plans to deal with the borough’s homeless protesters, Born SL6, ‘sympathetically but appropriately’ but admitted it is unclear whether they are entitled to housing support.
In April the group set up a protest camp outside the town hall and the council responded by putting up a metal fence to keep them out.
Cllr Dudley denied having any part in this decision but said a camp outside the town hall was unwelcome.
“I don’t think any people in a civilised society should be sleeping in doorways,” the incoming leader said. “But nobody wants to see encampments in front of the town hall. It’s a beautiful place where our democracy resides.”
Cllr Dudley told the Advertiser he still harbours the ambition to become a Conservative MP, despite his failed bids to represent the party in seats in Uxbridge and Kensington for the last general election.
But, for now, he said his attention is focused on leading the borough.
He added: “Whether I’m here for one year, two years or three years, I just want to leave the Royal Borough in better shape than when I became leader.”
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