Reading council leader pays tribute to outgoing Mayor

“This week the Council held its Annual General Meeting and Mayor Making ceremony. It is a largely ceremonial affair which ushers in the start of the new Municipal Year.

Perhaps this year it is more significant than others however, as it brings to an end 51 years of public service from our esteemed colleague, Councillor Tony Page, as his Mayoral year draws to a close.

Probably the most well-known of all Reading politicians (possibly Martin Salter aside) Tony was first elected as a Reading Councillor on June 7th, 1973, by a margin of just 80 votes. He was just 19 years old, even though the law at the time said you had to be 21 to stand as a candidate – an anomaly in electoral law later closed by Harold Wilson’s Government.

It’s impossible to summarise more than half a century of public service in a short column, but I think he would want me to pick out the key role he played as Chair of Reading Buses from 1986 to 2005. Not only did he help to shape a municipal bus company which today remains one of the very best in the country, but he was instrumental in the relocation of the old bus depot from Mill Lane to Great Knollys Street, which unlocked the Oracle development site we know today, which opened in 1999.

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Before this, the River Kennet had been largely hidden from view by industrial buildings and was used as not much more than an inward servicing route. The opening up of the Kennet to the town was of particular interest to Tony as a young and enthusiastic member of the Council’s Waterways Sub Committee. As a legacy, the change is one which helped shape Reading as a major destination and a major economic player and it is one which the town continues to benefit from today.

The modernisation of Reading Station, the construction of Christchurch Bridge, and the planning for the new Green Park Station all came under Cllr Page’s watch and are also a good demonstration of what is one of his great strengths. That is to make a compelling case to partner agencies about why they should invest in Reading. I’m certain that half the time they just gave in to him out of sheer exhaustion.

We sometimes hear that the Council is somehow in the pockets of developers and partners, but that’s an argument which conveniently chooses to ignore this Council’s central role in ensuring organisations who want something from Reading, give something back. These developments carry with them benefits which include new jobs and training opportunities for the local population and young people, desperately needed new affordable homes, and modern sustainable travel infrastructure, to name just a few.

He also relished a debate and his effectiveness in this area came from many years of experience and knowledge of our town and expertise in his area of work. Tony was – and remains – a public servant in its truest sense and after 51 years its only right to acknowledge his dedication to Reading and his endeavour.

I know he plans to remain active in the community, after a well-earned break, and will no doubt soon be knocking on my door to campaign on one thing or another.”

Reading Chronicle | Town Centre