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Council of the Week: Wokingham Town Council

Council of the Week:  Wokingham Town Council

This week’s Council of the Week has been selected on the basis of its innovative and impressive approach to partnership working, brought to our attention through last year’s WW1 centenary. 

Wokingham Town Council is a large town council in east Berkshire with 25 councillors. It is a formal council where wigs and gowns are worn but it is forward thinking too. The elections in 2011 brought in lots of new councillors who brought fresh ideas and approaches to the work of the council. 

A good example of this in practice was the Diamond Jubilee event, which was very well supported through matched funding from local businesses. This sponsorship approach is now a regular part of how the council delivers an increasing programme of events in the town; they have appointed a part-time Marketing and Communications Officer who forges links with other organisations for partnership working. 

Remaining true to its heritage, a mini-mayor – a Year 6 pupil - has been appointed for the last two years.  They accompany the ‘real’ mayor for a civic year, which is proving successful and enables the council to engage with young people, offering a different and fresh perspective to its work.

A significant example of the Council’s will to work in partnership was last year’s WWI centenary. Wokingham Town Council coordinated a partnership project involving all 17 town and parish councils across then borough, to provide a Heritage Memorial Trail commemorating the centenary of World War I. The project was supported by Churches Together in Wokingham and Wokingham Borough’s Library Service.

There are 26 war memorials across Wokingham Borough; they include open air sites, an unusual memorial window at Wokingham Without, Wokingham Town Council’s indoor wooden structure together with Woodley Town Council’s new memorial.

A Heritage Lottery bid was granted which enabled the council to produce impressive, museum standard information banners for each memorial together with a commemorative brochure offering details of the memorials and a trail map for residents to follow. Some of these sites were perhaps not very well known and it is hoped that residents will become more aware of the heritage within their own community through this project.

The exhibition stands for each town and parish offer a permanent display, sharing some of the stories of the fallen men on their own war memorial. These 'pop-up' stands have also been designed to be displayed collectively as a larger scale exhibition, available to schools and community groups; with a 5-10 year lifespan there will be an on-going opportunity to reflect on these events.

On Heritage Open Day in September 2014 Wokingham Town Council, opened its Grade II* Town Hall to the public. It launched the Memorial Trail, offered exhibitions based on the Town Hall memorial, held planned walks around the town, gave access to the Town Council’s virtual museum, WWI uniforms and equipment, a small exhibition of vehicles of the time, a themed market and other interactive experiences with a family focus.

This is the first time that Wokingham towns and parishes have worked in such a collaborative way and it has proven to be a real success, so they plan to continue working like this - in the knowledge that relationships are stronger as a consequence of the Heritage Memorial project.

Christine Lalley, County Executive Officer, Berkshire Association of Local Councils commends the council: “Wokingham Town Council is a fantastic example of how local councils, working so closely in their communities, can genuinely make a difference.  The council deserves recognition for their initiative, dynamism and attempts to include all ages in the work of the council.”

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