Friday, 27 November 2020

New Mayor vows to help young

A MAN who helped tackle “the Soviet red menace” has been made Mayor of Henley.

A MAN who helped tackle “the Soviet red menace” has been made Mayor of Henley.

Julian Brookes, a former engineering officer in the Royal Navy, was sworn in at the annual mayor-making ceremony at Henley town hall on Monday.

The 67-year-old succeeds his fellow Conservative councillor Lorraine Hillier, who handed over the chain of office in front of about 100 people.

Councillor Brookes, 67, who lives in Parkside, Henley, with his wife Gabriele, had served as Deputy Mayor for the past year having been elected for the first time in Henley north ward in May last year.

He said: “I feel very proud, obviously a little nervous to start with, but very proud indeed. I look forward to doing lots of things in the year and moving lots of things ahead.

“I’m never afraid to ask for advice and we have some very experienced councillors and very experienced staff. Although Janet Wheeler is new to Henley, she is a very experienced town clerk and I have always found the name of the game is asking for advice.”

Cllr Brookes, who went into international marketing and sales after leaving the navy, moved to Henley with his wife 15 years ago when they returned to Britain from Hong Kong.

Mrs Brookes was at the ceremony with their daughter Lydia and her partner Paul Elcock as well as friends Avery Penna, Natalie Michew and Cllr Brookes’s sister-in-law Susanna Döttinger. Their son Jody, who lives in Maidenhead, was not present.

Also present was his choice for the Mayor’s cadet, sea cadet Josie Day, from Bix. After presenting 15-year-old Josie with a badge and certificate, the Mayor told the audience: “As an ex-mariner, choosing a sea cadet would be my priority.”

Cllr Brookes has so far chosen only one of his three charities for his mayoral year. This is Henley YMCA, of which he is a board member and has overseen an appeal for £300,000 towards the purchase of the 31 flats at the Lawson Road  complex.

A total of £291,000 has already been pledged and it’s hoped the other £270,000 needed will come from loans and grants.

Cllr Brookes said: “It’s accommodation for 31 youngsters aged between 18 and 25. We can focus very much on the Henley area and, when there are spaces, the South Oxfordshire area.

“We don’t just house them, that’s just the first step. We look to teach them some of the basics of life, like budgeting and getting a job.

“Quickly we help them get into employment by writing a CV or get into education. The vast majority are in employment, which is really good news. Only one or two are actually drawing benefits.

“We have one young man who recently came out of prison. We helped him put an application together and he is now at university.

“That’s the sort of thing — youngsters who want to be helped and we want to help them on the way.”

Cllr Brookes was nominated by Councillor Dylan Thomas and seconded by Councillor Helen Chandler-Wilde, who are also Conservatives and joined the council at the same time.

Cllr Thomas said: “Councillor Brookes brings a wealth of experience to the council and to the role.

“He is a loved husband, father and grandfather. He can empathise with a great majority of residents and he has had an extraordinary career, first in public service as a commissioning officer as a submariner.

“I have the utmost respect for the extraordinary men who served under the sea and kept us safe from the Soviet red menace.

“After leaving his service, Cllr Brookes had extraordinary success in an international business career.”

Cllr Chandler-Wilde thanked the Mayor for being “a great friend” who was always willing to substitute for her in meetings while she was doing her final exams at university this year.

She added: “He has shown incredible initiative in taking on many projects, such as the corporate plan. He has campaigned on the neighbourhood plan.

“I asked him if he sees his family and he said, ‘my wife and I have been married for 44 years but together only 22’. It shows how willing he is to get involved and help. As Mayor, he will use this enthusiasm to work for Henley.”

Cllr Brookes paid tribute to Cllr Hillier, saying: “Lorraine has been absolutely everywhere. I often wonder how she managed to run two businesses and be mayor.

“Even being a councillor can take a lot of time. Being mayor is a full-time job and therefore I am in a very fortunate position, being retired, to be able to give my time.”

At the start of the ceremony, Cllr Hillier was led into the chamber by town sergeant Cliff Austin, carrying the ceremonial mace, with the town clerk and Cllr Brookes behind.

The proceedings began with prayers by Rev Canon Martin Griffiths, rector of St Mary’s Church, before Cllr Brookes was voted into office by his fellow councillors.

He then signed the declaration of acceptance and retired from the hall so he and Cllr Hillier could exchange robes. They then returned to the main hall where they exchanged seats and Cllr Hillier placed the mayoral chain on her successor.

Councillors David Nimmo Smith and Stefan Gawrysiak paid tribute to Cllr Hillier on behalf of the Conservatives and Henley Residents’ Group respectively.

Cllr Nimmo Smith said: “She took to it like a duck to water. She has managed to juggle her life as a local trader, district councillor and our own mayor.

“She worked with local causes and a good example is Townlands Hospital, where she has faced down the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group with myself and Ian Reissmann.”

Cllr Gawrysiak told Cllr Hillier: “Being Mayor of Henley-on-Thames is about getting the big decisions right, which you have done.

“Being Mayor of Henley-on-Thames is about getting out there and leading from the front, which you have done.

“Being Mayor of Henley-on-Thames is about doing all of that but it is also about being kind and caring to people and you have done that in abundance.

“Lorraine, a year ago, you said that you would try to be ‘the best ambassador I can be for our town’. We friends and townsfolk of Henley-on-Thames can all agree that you have been a stunning ambassador for our town.”

After the votes of thanks, there was a round of applause.

Cllr Hillier said it had been an “absolute honour” to be mayor.

“I am grateful to my fellow councillors for affording me the opportunity,” she said. “It has not all been plain sailing but the encouragement and friendship I have received have been wonderful.

“I would like to thank everyone for their kindness to me this year and all the volunteers I have met throughout the town.”

She gave “a big thank you” to her cadet, LCpl Matthew Case, of Gainsborough Crescent, Henley.

Cllr Hillier’s escort, her sister Susan George, passed her badge of office to Mrs Brookes, the new Mayoress.

The new Deputy Mayor is Will Hamilton, a 46-year-old Conservative councillor and management consultant who lives in Greys Road.

His partner Joanne Cope, who works for British Airways as cabin crew, will be Deputy Mayoress. Cllr Hamilton smiled as he was nominated by fellow Conservative councillor Sam Evans and seconded by Cllr Nimmo Smith.

He will focus on two projects during his year in the post — the cash-strapped summer fireworks and the Henley versus Marlow “Olympics”.

He revealed there will be a fireworks fund designed to raise £10,000 with the help of Lady McAlpine, of Fawley Hill, volunteer Richard Reed and the cadets.

Cllr Hamilton said: “I am a huge fan of the regatta and have watched the summer fireworks for the last 18 years.

“They are a great town spectacle, inclusive for everyone in the town and enjoyed by many if they are viewable from the bridge. While the town council has generously helped in the past, we felt this year a new team could raise the monies to make them happen.

“I love Henley and I love the river and my family who have travelled here today are immensely proud.

“Let’s hope for a beautiful British summer, I will do my absolute best to do the right thing.”

Cllr Evans said: “He has been an active member of the local Conservatives for years, organising some very successful events during his time as chairman of the branch.

“He even has to claim responsibility for persuading me to stand as a councillor, for which I apologise on his behalf! Will and Julian will make a formidable team and I know that the good of Henley will be at the forefront of everything that they do.”

Cllr Nimmo Smith said: “Those who know him will be aware of Will’s passion for all things Henley and his boundless energy. He will be the ideal support for the Mayor in a very busy year.”

After the ceremony, the guests were served drinks and food supplied by Maidensgrove company 81 Events. Buckets for collecting donations to the fireworks fund were passed round and there was music from Henley Music School students with performances by saxophonists Thomas Harding and Sidni Brener and flautist Natasha Clark-Lam.

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