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  • Andre Walker

Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead Council Leadership Runners and Riders

Last week's announcement that Cllr David Burbage was not going to stand as Leader of the Council in May was the culmination of weeks of tensions at the top of RBWM. The cabinet decided to recommend a change in leadership at a hastily convened meeting just days before.

Burbage’s problem was that he was never seen as a people person. Instead he kept getting elected because of the eye catching policies he came up with... And when those big policies dried up, he just was not ‘loved’ enough by his own group for them to keep him on.

They say all political careers end in failure, in this case Burbage was Conservative Leader for 13 years, nine as Council Leader and was even given an MBE for services to local government. He must be fairly pleased with his ‘innings’, even if it ended before he had wanted.

His departure leaves one of the most open fields for the Council Leadership since the creation of the Royal Borough in 1974. Most of the cabinet have either publicly declared or are considering a run.

Here are the list of the councillors being talked about as potential leaders:



Cllr Simon Dudley (Maidenhead Riverside Ward)

Current Role: Deputy Leader Personality: Deal maker

Pro: Knows the job backwards

Con: Opposition from some cllrs Likelihood of winning: 55%

Dudley is one of two long-term Deputy Leaders whose withdrawal of support for Burbage made his position untenable. He is highly intelligent, ambitious and single-minded but these attributes have not always made him popular among other councillors.

He could start work on day one and is guaranteed to do a good job managing things, but he would encounter significant opposition from a group of Tory councillors who do not like him.

In order to head them off he has pledged spend 12 months building a new administration and then ask the Conservative group to make a decision on his leadership next year.


Strong Contenders:

Cllr Richard Kellaway (Bisham and Cookham Ward)

Current Role: Immediate Past Mayor Personality: Solid Chap

Pro: Good track record

Con: Heart not in it Likelihood of winning: 15%

Before the last election Cllr Kellaway challenged Burbage for the leadership and came remarkably close.

He is seen as a safe pair of hands having had successful terms as Mayor and Lead Member for Finance . He also promises a less dictatorial style of leadership than under Burbage, reportedly saying he would hand control of the council 'back to the officers'.

The reason he fell short last time was a perception that he had run in order to do the right thing rather than any genuine ambition. He certainly lacked the killer instinct to really fight for the position. This time he has told colleagues he is on holiday on the day they elect the new leader, and that he will not be canceling the trip!

Cllr Phill Bicknell (Park Ward)

Current Role: Deputy Leader Personality: Problem solver

Pro: Highly experienced

Con: May not even run Likelihood of winning: 20% (if he runs)

The unknown quantity in the election is Cllr Bicknell, he had been the ultimate Burbage loyalist for years but lost patience with him in the end. Bicknell has repeatedly said he does not want the leadership, but would want to remain as one of the Deputies.

He is likely to back Cllr Dudley in an attempt to secure a smooth transition, but may well run himself if he thinks Dudley will lose.

He’s much more of a diplomat than either Dudley or Burbage but may struggle to differentiate himself from them.

Cllr David Evans (Hurley and Walthams Ward)

Current Role: Backbencher Personality: Respected outsider Pro: No baggage Con: No council track-record either

Likelihood of winning: 15%

As a former candidate for parliament, Evans has blown away the group with his oratory at council meetings. He is widely respected, but is also a newbie with no real track record of having done much at the council.

He previously declined a cabinet position because of work commitments but is reported to be ‘seriously considering’ running for leader.

If the council want a fresh start nothing is fresher than the guy who has not really done anything at all. That said it is the biggest risk.



Cllr George Bathurst (Sunninghill and South Ascot Ward)

Current Role: Lead Member for Policy Personality: Ideas guy Pro: Big ideas and tax cutting agenda Con: Conflict of interest as Windsor Link Rail boss

Likelihood of winning: 10%

The Council’s ideas man can get councillor's backs up with his single mindedness but has also come up with some of the biggest schemes of recent years including the Love Dedworth project, Challenge Prizes and the pedestrianisation of Lower Peascod Street. He is also Managing Director of the Windsor Link Railway (WLR) project.

Bathurst is a ferocious taxcutter who finds it hard to hide his disdain for those he perceives to be insufficiently conservative on the issue. If he wins expect a return to eye catching policies and tax cuts.

Cllr Colin Rayner (Wraysbury Ward)

Current Role: Lead Member for Transport Personality: Tactical rather than strategic Pro: Best connected locally of all candidates Con: Already very busy

Likelihood of winning: 10%

One of Berkshire’s biggest landowners Cllr Rayner has held almost every significant post in the town of Windsor not least having been head of the Windsor Horse Show, Mayor of the Royal Borough and Cabinet member for Transportation twice.

His major weakness is that his farming business leaves him limited time to undertake council work. He sometimes lacks the confidence for push through his agenda when officers resist.

Cllr Paul Brimacombe (Cox Green Ward)

Current Role: Lead Member for Transformation and Performance Personality: Game player Pro: Friendly to people Con: Questions over trustworthiness

Likelihood of winning: 5%

Brimacombe infamously told Cllr Burbage he was ‘100% behind him’ just days before launching the campaign to oust him. He is currently described as being ‘100% behind’ Cllr Dudley’s leadership campaign but is secretly working on his own bid.

Known to be very close to Cllr Clare Stretton (Con, Boyn Hill), widely seen the far left of the Conservative Group. Brimacombe is personable, but seen as much better at talking than listening.

Cllr Geoff Hill (Oldfield Ward)

Current Role: Lead Member for ICT and Business Services Personality: Ambitious Pro: Maidenhead Tory Boss Con: Problems at Stafferton Way

Likelihood of winning: 5%

In addition to being lead member for Information Technology and Business Services, Hill is also the Chairman of Maidenhead Conservatives. He has bags of ambition and is keen to take the crown.

Hill’s chances of winning have been seriously damaged by the £1.3m overspend at Stafferton Way which happened on his watch (but has only just come to light). He is also blamed for the slow progress of free wifi in the town centres project.

Cllr David Coppinger (Bray Ward)

Current Role: Lead Member for Adult Services

Personality: Politically marginalised Pro: Runs big department at council Con: Not in tune with Conservative group

Likelihood of winning: 5%

Coppinger first made his name in local politics as a fierce critic of Conservative policy as a Parish Councillor. His decision to run as a Tory for the borough therefore came as a surprise to many.

In his role as lead members for Adult Services he has not always been in tune with the views of the Conservative group and remains to the left of most of his party.


The Process

The voters are the 56 Conservative Councilors who will meet on 9th May nominations need to be in 24 hours before. The list of validly nominated candidates will remain confidential until the meeting itself.

There will be a series of secret ballots with the lowest scoring candidate being eliminated at each round. The ballots will cease when one of the candidates gets more than half the groups support, which is 29 votes or more.

Former Chief Whip Cllr John Story (Sunninghill and South Ascot) will act as Returning Officer. He will destroy the ballots after the poll to keep the groups preferences secret from the wider public. The group will then be whipped into voting for the new Conservative Group Leader as Council Leader at the Annual Council Meeting (24th May).

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