Bedford Borough Mayor pays tribute to cabinet and councillors as he marks a year in office

Mayor Tom Wootton was elected in 2023. Image: Bedford Borough Council.
Mayor Tom Wootton was elected in 2023. Image: Bedford Borough Council.

Bedford’s mayor said his “fantastic” cabinet members and councillors have made Bedford borough a “can-do” council.

Speaking at Bromham Parish Council last night (7 May), mayor Tom Wootton (Conservative) said that it had been a “fantastic” first year in office, but being a mayor is a “real rollercoaster ride”.

“The first day in office [and I was told] that there was an overspend,” he said. “They said about £5 or £6million and if [I] didn’t do anything it’ll be £8million, then it’ll be £12million.

“You’ve just got to get on with stuff and try to get hold of the finances and stop the runaway spending on things like temporary accommodation.

“The great big Tory mayor comes in and the first thing I do is start employing people,” he said.

“We’ve employed 22 people in the housing department because we’ve got all these people in temporary accommodation and hotel rooms that weren’t being looked after. It was costing us a fortune.

“[I’m] really proud that we’re actually looking after people and doing the right thing and giving them what they should be having,” he said.

Mayor Tom said that the four-hour free parking at Allhallows Car Park was “really difficult” to get past those opposing it.

“We want to do more of it, and we’re going to get more of that done as we’re going to do another trial run up to Christmas at one of the bigger car parks,” he said.

“People will have a choice if they go to Bedford, if you park on a side road it’ll cost you money, but if you want to use your steering wheel and drive about there are places you can get four hours free parking.

“And [this is] bringing life back to our town.

“The town centre footfall has been falling for a very long time. Well now, not last year, it’s gone up and we’re really proud that we’re starting to get people back in,” he said.

“I really hope that people have noticed the difference [from this can-do administration],” he said.

While Mayor Tom Wotton did talk about the positives there have also been some controversial moments in the last year.

These include a U-turn on controversial river festival changes, not turning up to community events, apparent ‘interference’ with sport’s ground leases, and failure to find a viable, ‘stand out’ alternative to EWR’s route E choice.

Mayor Tom was elected mayor with a majority of just 145, beating Liberal Democrat Dave Hodsgon who had been in the position for 14 years.

His manifesto prioritised a more transparent council, revitalising our town centres, fighting EWR’s north route choice, better public transport and better provisions for families.

Read: Conservative candidate Tom Wootton reveals his manifesto for Bedford Mayoral challenge

by John Guinn
Local Democracy Reporter
Additional reporting by Paul Hutchinson
Bedford Independent