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Woking Council Leader Quits, More Cooperative Approach Pledged

Published on: 17 Oct, 2020
Updated on: 19 Oct, 2020

Cllr David Bittleston who stepped down as Woking Borough Council Leader

David Bittleston has suddenly stepped down as leader of Woking Borough Council this week and replaced by Conservative colleague Ayesha Azad (Heathlands).

He said he had planned to retire in April, but stayed on to help coordinate the coronavirus response.

Last year, Independent Cllr John Bond (Byfleet & West Byfleet) won a motion of no confidence against Cllr Bittleston, but he remained as leader when no alternative was put forward.

Cllr Bond said: “We were very surprised. I’ve not always agreed with David but I have great respect for the amount of work he’s done over the years.

Cllr Ayesha Azad, the new leader. Photo: Ayesha Azad.

“Hopefully, this will give him a bit of free time to relax, and enjoy his favourite hobby of watching the wild squirrels of Scotland.”

Over the past 20 years, Cllr Bittleston has been elected six times by his Mount Hermon ward, and will still represent them.

He told the Thursday council meeting they also needed a new chief executive. But he said he and other group leaders would recommend retaining chief executive Ray Morgan part-time.

Cllr Bittleston thanked Mr Morgan, “…. who I suspect I have spent more time with over the past 10 years than anybody except my wife.

“A successful council can be run only where there is a shared vision between the chief executive and the leader. Ray and I have worked extremely well together. He asks, and I say No. Works every time.”

Cllr Bittleston said he had started delivering leaflets in Mount Hermon when he was 10, 53 years before, and his two greatest passions on Woking council had been housing and leisure.

“I have managed to get the council more in leisure facilities than probably any other council in the south of England,” he said. “Woking are the best council in the country.”

Woking Borough Council

After Cllr Azad’s election, she said: “David has been the champion of the underdog and an absolute great advocate for levelling up before it became fashionable and before that was ever uttered by Boris Johnson.”

She promised a more cooperative approach in the council and invited the opposition parties to sit in the Executive, recognising no group has overall control.

The Conservatives have 14 councillors, Lib Dems 10 and Independents and Labour three each.

Cllr Azad lives in Hook Heath and grew up in Maybury. She said it was an honour to serve the town where she attended Bishop David Brown School and Woking College.

“These are challenging times that require us all to come together and put party politics aside,” she said.

“It becomes even more imperative that we utilise the skills and experience of every single member.

“I therefore invite the opposition parties to consider the mantle of responsibility that comes with leadership, so this means serving on the board of Thameswey’s companies for example, to ensure council policies are delivered.”

Many council officers and Conservative councillors are directors of the Thameswey companies, set up by the council in 1999 to deliver its strategic objectives in housing and energy.

Cllr Azad has been on the council for six years and is also a county councillor for Woking South West.

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