Ex-Slough council leader Richard Stokes turns 100 years old

A FORMER council leader who has given nearly 30 years of service to Slough reflects back on his life as he turns 100 years old.

Richard Stokes, who served as leader of Slough Borough Council for four years, was elected as a councillor in 1983.

Becoming the top boss of Slough Borough Council was the “highlight” of his career. But now the retired councillor has reached another milestone in his life, reaching 100 years old on Monday, January 2.

He was initially elected as a Labour councillor but defected to the Liberal Party in 1987 after refusing to publicly say he will vote for Douglas Cyril Gibbs for Slough mayor in 1986.

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Mr Stokes, who represented Haymill ward, retired as a councillor in 2012 at the age of 89 but vowed to continue his fight against child trafficking.

The council has primarily been under Labour control, but that changed when five parties, including the Liberals, Liberal Democrats, Conservatives, and two Independent groups, formed a coalition to kick Labour out.

Mr Stokes became the leader of the council between 2004 and 2008 during those coalition years. Labour came back into power afterwards.

Reflecting back at his time as leader, Richard said: “We finished in the top ten of local authorities in Britain for good management.

“We built over £10m worth of cash reserves and we had the lowest council tax rate in the South East at the time, and we were commended for efficient management.

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“Gradually, each year, the Labour Party regained seats and we got booted out [of the council] after four years having been highly successful.”

During his time as a councillor, he said he would spend “at least 50 hours a week” on council business and casework.

After Labour got back into power following the 2008 election, Mr Stokes said the council has gone “downhill” since then.

Slough Borough Council effectively declared bankruptcy in July 2021 after it discovered it had a £760m borrowing debt following historic accounting errors. It needs to make £20m savings a year and sell up to £600m of its assets.

Slough Observer: Slough Borough Council issued a section 114 in July 2021Slough Borough Council issued a section 114 in July 2021 (Image: Google Maps)

Richard put down Slough’s financial woes to “bad business” and councillors not questioning or challenging proposals or decisions.

He also criticised the council’s decision to buy office blocks in the town and a cinema outside Slough “when the day of cinemas are over”.

Richard said: “[The council] has been buying empty office blocks and an empty cinema in other towns where if they were really good investments, why haven’t Leicester, Basingstoke, and all these other councils buy these investments?”

Before Richard became a Slough councillor, he stood as a Labour candidate for Spelthorne during the 1964 general election. He was defeated by Conservative MP Sir George Beresford Craddock by 5,433 votes.

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Originally born in Southport in Merseyside into a working-class family, Richard joined the RAF during World War Two when he was 17-year’s-old and stayed there for seven years.

After graduating from Manchester University with a degree in occupational psychology, he moved to Langley for work purposes. He worked as a director in human resources and then worked in Arcadia to help set up the clothing store Topshop.

Richard then became an independent consultant before retiring in his late 80s.

Mr Stokes said the biggest change during his time in Slough is the “decline” of the High Street, lingering interest in local politics, and the “lack of architectural merit” in the town.

“There doesn’t seem to be pride that use to be in [planning] applications,” he said.

For his 100th birthday wish, he wants more young people will get involved with local politics and has called for a debating society to be set up for the youths to get involved in.

Slough Observer | News