Tuesday, 25th February, 2014 7.30 pm
COUNCIL – 25.02.2014
- AT A MEETING OF THE BOROUGH COUNCIL held in the Town Hall, Maidenhead on Tuesday 25 February 2014
PRESENT: The Mayor (Councillor Andrew Jenner), Councillors Natasha Airey, Sinead Archer, George Bathurst, Malcolm Beer, Phillip Bicknell, Paul Brimacombe, Clive Bullock, David Burbage, David Coppinger, Carwyn Cox, Simon Dudley, David Evans, James Evans, Sue Evans, John Fido, George Fussey, Jesse Grey, Christian Harris, Geoffrey Hill, David Hilton, Charles Hollingsworth, Maureen Hunt, Mohammed Ilyas, Lynne Jones, Richard Kellaway, Peter Lawless, Paul Lion, Philip Love, Sayonara Luxton, Duncan McBride, Asghar Majeed, Alan Mellins, Marion Mills, Gary Muir, Kathy Newbound, John Penfold, Eileen Quick, Colin Rayner, MJ Saunders, Adam Smith, John Story, Claire Stretton, John Stretton, Simon Werner, Derek Wilson and Lynda Yong.
Officers: Alison Alexander, Mark Blackshaw, Andrew Brooker, Richard Bunn, Anne Dackombe, Cathryn James, Maria Lucas, Mike McGaughrin, Christabel Shawcross, Anna Trott and Karen Williams.
Rev Stileman said prayers for the meeting.
61. APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE
Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Christine Bateson, Catherine Bursnall, Tom Bursnall, Peter Comber, Cynthia Endacott, John Lenton, Hari Sharma Derek Sharp, and Leo Walters.
The Mayor took the opportunity to thank all the Ward Councillors, volunteers, emergency services and armed services personnel involved during the recent floods.
The minutes of the meeting of the Council held on 10 December 2013 were approved.
63. DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST
- The Managing Director had provided a dispensation in relation to item 11, the budget. The failure to grant the dispensation would impede the transaction of the business because of the number of Members having the same Disclosable Pecuniary Interest.
The Head of Legal advised any Member with a Disclosable Pecuniary Interest in relation to the Windsor Link Railway that they should declare and withdraw from the meeting.
Councillor Bathurst declared a Disclosable Pecuniary Interest in the Windsor Link Railway Petition item as he was involved in the Windsor Link Railway proposal.
Councillor Fido declared an interest in the Windsor Link Railway Petition item as he had worked for British Rail for 40 years.
PETITION RELATING TO WINDSOR LINK RAILWAY
- Councillors Rayner and Mrs Luxton left the meeting for this item.
Councillor Bathurst, as Lead Petitioner, addressed the meeting. He stated that 1423 residents and businesses had signed the petitions in support of the Windsor Link Railway (WLR) and its aims for the town. He wished to lay to rest a number of myths, including that the council had blanket powers to give planning permission or compulsory purchase properties. There was no secret conspiracy to concrete over Alexandra Gardens; in fact the aim was to reconnect the gardens to the town and make improvements. Some car parks that had been a blight on the town for years could be brought within the development. The architecture would be in keeping with Windsor traditions. Some development would be necessary to avoid a burden on the local tax payer. Councillor Bathurst then left the meeting for the remainder of the discussion and voting on the item.
Councillor Saunders commented that the petition invited the Council to do more to support the Windsor Link Railway – a project which would indeed demand active engagement across the Council in many regards:
1. On rail and connected transport utilities - a matter for the Lead Member, Cllr Hill, and the Transport Officers.
2. On Windsor town centre both during and after construction - a matter for the Lead Member, Cllr Quick, and the Windsor Team Officers.
3. On environmental and public parking impact - a matter for the Lead Member, Cllr Cox, and Environment Protection and Parking Officers.
4. On local planning preferences - a matter for the Chair of the Windsor Central Neighbourhood Plan, Cllr Airey, and for Cllr Bateson and the Planning Officers assisting the emerging neighbourhood plans.
5. On borough planning policies and the related planning applications, although these would largely be determined by Central Government rather than locally in the Borough, a matter for himself as Lead Member and the Planning Officers.
The WLR Team had this month provided some information to start pre-application discussions and had formally asked the Council to support and collaborate with WLR and ensure provision was made in the emerging Borough Local Plan to support the WLR and the associated development. The Planning Officers had advised him it would be premature for them to comment on the potential or likely planning implications of the indicative proposals. Likewise, he was not yet able to comment as Lead Member for Planning. He highlighted that this should not be misinterpreted as implying any opinion, supportive or otherwise, on the WLR, but he did welcome the beginning of thorough pre-application discussions, and hoped the Council’s carefully considered views would be pivotal in any future decisions by central government.
Consistent with this clear intent, he invited Council to consider the following resolution:
- This Council :
a) notes the petition and the case made for the Windsor Link Railway, and
b) encourages the WLR Team to engage fully in the planning policy processes, feeding into the emerging Borough Local Plan and Central Windsor Neighbourhood Plan, and looks forward to further submissions and discussions in these regards with all relevant Members and Officers.
The Mayor informed Council that Councillor Tom Bursnall, who had submitted his apologies for the meeting, had indicated his support for the WLR proposal.
Councillor Mrs Airey as Chair of the Central Windsor Neighbourhood Plan commented that on 6 October 2013 the group had resolved to support the WLR proposal in principle. The Transport Topic Group would consider the plans going forward.
Councillor Burbage stated that the council was pleased to have received the petition and that more information and evidence was coming forward to support the project. The efforts of Councillor Bathurst had been noted by many people. The council could not grant any particular privileges as the WLR was effectively a private scheme and was therefore not a typical application, however he was pleased that more details were emerging which would assist any consultation.
Councillor Bicknell commented that any proposal to alleviate the tremendous parking problems in Windsor should be welcomed. The decision would be taken at a later stage by central government, but it deserved more investigation now.
Councillor Mrs quick, as Lead Member for Windsor, commented that she would be happy for the new Windsor Public Realm Group to consider the benefits of the scheme.
Councillor Dudley commented that given Maidenhead would benefit from Crossrail from 2019, it would be remiss of the council to not give Windsor residents an opportunity to understand the complexities and benefits of the WLR scheme. A thorough analysis was needed.
Councillor Sue Evans commented that when residents of central Windsor were surveyed they were generally in favour of the WLR proposals. As a Ward Councillor she would welcome improvements to parking and transport issues.
Councillor Beer stated that he agreed with previous comments. He highlighted that Slough was supporting a rail scheme to Heathrow and the Royal Borough should be in the same game.
- RESOLVED UNANIMOUSLY: That this Council :
c) notes the petition and the case made for the Windsor Link Railway, and
d) encourages the WLR Team to engage fully in the planning policy processes, feeding into the emerging Borough Local Plan and Central Windsor Neighbourhood Plan, and looks forward to further submissions and discussions in these regards with all relevant Members and Officers.
The Mayor submitted in writing details of engagements that he and the Deputy Mayor had undertaken since the last meeting, which were noted by the Council.
66. PUBLIC QUESTIONS
Members noted that no public questions had been received
- The following petition was presented by Councillor Rayner:
- ‘We the undersigned would like to ask that our part of Wraysbury Road and Bell Weir close be changed to a Controlled Parking Zone (CPZ) that is for residents and their visitors only.’
Councillor Rayner addressed the meeting to summarise the content of the petition. He explained that the layby in question had been put in when the M25 was built. The layby was used by people parking during long journeys or going to the airport, for sleeping in and other undesirable activities.
The Mayor ruled that the petition should be referred to the Head of Service/Lead Member for consideration.
- Members considered approval of the Council’s Pay Policy statement. Councillor Burbage explained that that this was an annual requirement.
It was proposed by Councillor Burbage, seconded by Councillor Dudley, and:
- RESOLVED UNANIMOUSLY: That Council approve the Pay Policy Statement 2014/15 and publishes it on its website by 31 March 2014.
- Members considered a number of amendments to the Borough Constitution. Councillor Burbage explained that that the proposal was for a small change to the membership of the School’s Forum to include representation from the Pupil Referral Unit.
It was proposed by Councillor Burbage, seconded by Councillor Bicknell, and:
- RESOLVED UNANIMOUSLY: That the amendments to the Council’s Constitution as set out in Appendix A to the report be approved.
70. ELECTION PAYMENTS
- Members noted that the item had been deferred to a future meeting.
- Members considered an urgent report, which had been agreed to by the Mayor under Part 2, C6.3 of the Constitution.
Councillor Burbage explained that that given the flooding in Wraysbury, it was proposed that the parish council by-election set for 26 March 2014 be postponed. A future date would be determined by the Returning Officer.
Councillor Werner commented that he thought the proposal made eminent sense but he questioned whether the parish council had been consulted. Councillor Burbage confirmed that consultation had taken place. Councillor Mrs Jones asked whether there were any candidates standing. Councillor Burbage stated that he did not know if there were any candidates and that this was not a matter for him.
It was proposed by Councillor Burbage, seconded by Councillor Dudley, and:
- RESOLVED UNANIMOUSLY: That the Council orders that the Wraysbury by-election currently set for 26 March 2014 be postponed until the effects of the flooding have been addressed and the by-election can be properly held.
Members considered approval of the Budget for 2014/15. Councillor Dudley, as Lead Member, introduced the report. Before making his budget speech, Councillor Dudley echoed the comments of the Mayor in thanking officers for all their hard work over the last few weeks in responding to the flooding in the borough.
Councillor Dudley stated that the budget he was about to present was a special budget because no council in the UK had ever cut council tax for five years in a row. Over the last five years there had been an 11% nominal reduction in council tax, including a 2% reduction for 2014/15. This equated to a 25.6% reduction taking into account inflation. This had put £22m back into the local economy. It was the council’s responsibility to deliver efficient and high quality services whilst also ensuring the hard-working resident retained as much money as possible.
Councillor Dudley reported that neighbouring authorities were charging more on average. A band D property in Slough would pay £246.87 more, therefore the Royal Borough was 21% cheaper. In Reading a Band D property would pay £386.90 more, therefore the Royal Borough was 29% cheaper.
Members noted that as part of the budget, savings of £6.15m had been identified, which would allow for investment in areas of demand such as Adult Social Care (an additional £826,000) and Children’s Safeguarding (an additional £340,000). The number of children’s social workers had ben increased by four to 36 at a cost of £160,000. The number of community wardens had also increased by three to eighteen at a cost of £120,000. Salaries for lower-paid staff had been increased by 2.5% and 2% based upon salary pay band for the lowest paid Royal Borough employees, helping >300 of the lowest paid employees. Councillor Dudley referred Members to page 49 of the report which recommended an investment of £800,000 in the York Road Opportunity Area. This was possible as a result of previous in-year savings having been transferred to the Development Fund.
In relation to fees and charges, it was noted that the budget as proposed included no increase in car parking charges for residents. Members were already aware of the recent decision to remove charges for resident parking permits. The cost of home care charges had been frozen at £16 per hour. In relation to capital schemes, it was noted that £30m had been budgeted for 2014/15. Councillor Dudley highlighted the following schemes:
- £1.60m for highway surfacing (up 10% from £1.45m in 2013/14)
£3.7m for Stafferton Way link road
£1.9m for new primary school places at Ellington (Riverside Primary School)
£7.5m for completion of the relocation and expansion of Oldfield school (total scheme cost £8.1m).
£540,000 allocated for Manor Green school to expand special school places
- Councillor Mrs Jones, as Opposition spokesperson, addressed the meeting. She echoed the thanks of others to officers involved in the flooding in recent weeks. She highlighted the role played by the Control Room Services Manager. She then thanked the Head of Finance for producing the document before Members and also thanked all the officers involved for their hard work. She stated that she would not add their workload by producing an alternative budget as in this council she believed it would not be given due consideration. She was giving the Opposition’s response, as she had done for the last two years, with the knowledge that what she said would make no difference whatsoever to the outcome of the debate due to the composition of the council.
Councillor Mrs Jones commented that the budget, and the council tax reduction, would not be decided in the meeting. She felt that no issues she raised, no valid arguments that she put forward, would affect the decision the council would make. Councillor Dudley, Councillor Burbage, Eric Pickles and David Cameron had all praised the fifth council tax reduction in a row as far back as the middle of January 2014, before the budget had even been presented to the Overview &Scrutiny Panels. Councillor Dudley had been quoted as saying “When the Liberal Democrats were last in control, council tax rose by a staggering 24.3%. This is in stark contrast to the 25.6% real terms cut delivered by the Conservatives over the last five years – proving that only the Conservatives can be trusted to be responsible with residents’ money.” Councillor Mrs Jones asked whether Councillor Dudley had conveniently forgotten that Conservatives raised council tax in the first two years. In 2007, when the Tories took over from the Liberal Democrats, a band D council tax was £994; it went up to £1018 in the first year and rose again to £1037 in the second year. Therefore over the time the Conservatives had been in administration, they had cut council tax, but not by the 25.6 % that Councillor Dudley would like people to assume, but by 7%, amounting to £68 per year for a band D property, equivalent to £1.30 a week or 19p a day.
Councillor Mrs Jones asserted that the actual cut was the cut to expenditure on council services. In the three years to March 2013 she had been told that the council had spent £31.2m less on services and some of the cuts were to council staff. In the two years to March 2013 the council decreased its employee numbers by 110 part time and 120 full time staff, the equivalent of 168 full time employees or nearly 20% of the current workforce. This amounted to over 8,000 working days less resource for the council to use to provide services to residents. The budget that was being recommended proposed another 31 posts be deleted.
As a result Councillor Mrs Jones stated that she was going to address those present as individual councillors who were elected by their residents to represent their best interests. In her ward she had a resident who no longer received the Assisted Transport allowance. This had been replaced by the administration as a saving, with a voucher system that that was not fit for purpose as it prevented her using her allowance for a taxi to the doctors for an urgent appointment. The take up of this service had dropped from 900 eligible residents to 600. Rather than review the service, a further saving of £10,000 was being made (due to decrease in numbers) in the proposed budget. Councillor Mrs Jones asked what had happened to the people who could no longer access the service?
In her ward she had residents who, over the last few years, had found it increasingly difficult to access social workers. It was increasingly difficult to have a relationship with a social worker and not have to explain the same thing, time after time after time. In her ward she had a resident with impaired mobility who had waited over a year to have adaptations to his home to even begin; he could not even exit his house in an emergency. This unacceptable delay was due to lack of resources in social care and occupational therapy assessments, a direct result of the changes to social workers’ terms and conditions, changes that were made to hit targets of ‘cost efficiencies’. This resulted in social care staff leaving the employ of the council, having to employ agency staff at a higher cost, having to readjust the terms and conditions and having to recruit heavily. These cuts were affecting residents.
In her ward Councillor Mrs Jones had a resident who had been trying for over two years to access housing for a family member with learning difficulties. The family was becoming increasingly frustrated with the process and the effect it was having on the quality of their family life. The provision in the borough was inadequate for the complex needs of this individual and no one appeared to be able to offer any solutions. The council was failing this family.
In her ward she had a resident who had been unable to receive a complaint reference number for complaint made to the council. She asked how could he, or councillors, track complaints if they did not even have a reference. Along similar lines another resident had been waiting since June 2013 to receive a full response to a serious complaint. Councillor Mrs Jones questioned whether this was what the council called efficiency.
In her ward the library had for quite some time been highlighted as needing toilet facilities for staff and clients but was continuously moved down the priority list because of lack of funding. Councillor Mrs Jones questioned whether the council should be expecting people to run council services without access to even the most basic facilities.
Councillor Mrs Jones commented that on the Dedworth Road the care homes had asked that the pavements be levelled so that they could safely escort the frail and elderly residents out to the shops or just for a trip out. The carers could not keep a wheelchair on the pavement due to the camber and residents that walked with an aid were too unstable to cope with the rutted and sloping pavement. Again she had been told the council did not have the funds. She commented that the council had operated for 18 months without complying with statutory legislation, without publishing in advance the agenda for Part II (now called private) meetings as legally required by Eric Pickles’ transparency agenda. This was undemocratic as the public had not been given information to which they were entitled. Councillor Mrs Jones commented that at best this could be put down to not enough resource, the chaos caused by ‘hot desking’. At worst it was just the council being inept.
She had been told that the council could afford to cut council tax without affecting services. By the end of the next financial year the council would have cut £27.7m from its budget. The Medium Term Financial Plan indicated that the council would have to cut another £5.4m in 15/16 followed by £6.2m and £5.8m in subsequent years; this was on top of another £18m being cut by central government. There had been a belief that the New Homes Bonus would be a ‘cash cow’ that would fill the gap between funding and costs, but with the recent floods it was obvious that building on the floodplains of the Thames was not going to be viable.
Councillor Mrs Jones applauded the philosophy of decreasing council tax for residents but asked that the council did not try to insist that there would be no consequences. There had already been consequences and people had been detrimentally affected by decisions. She requested that the council be honest and transparent. The council’s services currently consisted of the basic minimum statutory services required by government, with added current initiatives that were mainly funded by outside bodies or central government. She asked whether the council was confident that it had made its residents aware of the situation and the possible consequences, as she believed the council was failing some of the more vulnerable in the community. She did not believe this was really worth the headline grabbing ‘fifth year in a row council tax cut’.
Councillor Story highlighted that the council tax next year would be back to the level it was nine year’s previously. The administration had wiped away the profligate years of the previous administration when council tax had increased at twice the rate of inflation. People had asked how long the council could go on cutting council tax. He stated that the Conservative administration would not stop looking at ways to cut out inefficiencies. The borough was a safer, greener and more pleasant place to live, work and visit than nine years previously. Residents facing financial hardship knew they could rely on the council. He congratulated the Lead Member.
Councillor Saunders, as Lead Member for Planning and Property stated that his portfolio included many issues ranked high on the list of what residents wanted the council to get right: controlling and enforcing unwanted development, particularly on the Green Belt and including illegal traveller encampments. The proposed budget continued revenue investment in additional officers focused on borough and neighbourhood plans, trees, conservation and enforcement of planning regulations, and allowed for new capital budgets for trees and to deliver legal sites for travellers. The budget also included proposals to enhance the town centres, realise the aims of the Waterways project and allowed residents to take a direct stake in the property development of the town centre. Councillor Saunders commented that he believed Councillor Mrs Jones had misled council with her reference to the first two years of the administration. She had overlooked the budget handed to the administration which included a £1m black hole of fatuous savings and increases in parking charges on residents. Having put that back into balance the council then started a five year journey of transformation to deliver more for less. Critics said that it could not be done and vulnerable residents would be affected. Five years on, a council tax saving of over 25% in cumulative real terms had been delivered and services were better, more effective and focused. The council had been able to respond with confidence and widespread acknowledgement to the challenging demands of the recent flooding. He thanked residents in pledging confidence in the council’s ability to deliver and thanked officers in helping the council to deliver its aims.
Councillor Mrs Hunt commented that in her ward if something went wrong officers responded quickly to resolve the problem. Recent examples included buses, housing and home care.
Councillor Bicknell highlighted that the council’s schools were performing in an excellent fashion. Officers in his department were doing a first class job. He felt that some of the comments by Councillor Mrs Jones were misleading. He thanked the Lead Member.
Councillor Coppinger commented that he would have hoped Councillor Mrs Jones would have approached him as relevant Lead Member about some of the individual issues she had raised. He acknowledged that the Assisted Transport scheme had changed, but commented that the council did not have a choice as the previous scheme had not been compliant. He explained that the council was in the middle of some of the largest changes to affect Adult Social Care and health. Changes as a result of the Care Bill would be implemented in the coming year including a care account for all service users. The Better Care Fund would also become a reality. The overall aim was to keep people in their own homes as long as possible. The gross budget for Adult Social Care in 2014/15 was £51.5m, an increase of £826,000 to cover additional costs of demographic pressures. The coming year would also see the full benefit of an £875,000 grant to improve services for residents with Alzheimer’s. The council was in the third year of a transformation process to improve outcomes and lower costs. Improved services included telecare, telehealth, shared lives and homeshare. The council worked closely with the voluntary sector on projects such as Carebank.
Councillor Harris thanked the Lead Member and officers for the budget. As Chairman of the Corporate Services Overview & Scrutiny Panel he confirmed that the Panel had scrutinised the budget line by line. He commented that the council currently had seven Overview & Scrutiny Panels whereas there had only been one in the previous administration. He felt that the micro-level issues raised by Councillor Mrs Jones should be taken up with the relevant Lead Members. At the national level of government, the opposition put forward many proposals. At the local level, no-one was expecting the level of detail as in the budget, but individual proposals would be welcomed from the opposition.
Councillor Grey congratulated the Cabinet and officers. To consistently reduce council tax for five years and maintain a high level of services needed greater recognition. The Royal Borough had the lowest council tax in Berkshire and the longest track record of cutting council tax of any local authority. In addition, the council’s investment in highways was the envy of other boroughs. The administration had fulfilled nearly all of its 100 manifesto commitments. He and his fellow Ward Councillor were however disappointed that Datchet Parish Council had decided to impose a 40% increase in their precept. No projects had been put forward to justify the increase and budgets had not been produced.
Councillor Wilson commented that he was extremely pleased with the budget; the five year cut whilst also maintaining services was outstanding. He commented on the inclusion of the Stafferton Way Link Road project which had been identified as early 1967. He also highlighted the expansion of Oldfield School and the high level of road maintenance in the borough.
Councillor Hill commented that as Lead Member for the Customer Service Centre he was aware of the fast resolution of many queries. In relation to Councillor Mrs Jones’ comments about the Dedworth Road, he would discuss this issue with the Highways, Strategy and Traffic Manager the following morning. He commented that officers had done very well to secure central government funding for the Stafferton Way Link Road. In the recent Participatory Budgeting vote, residents had placed highway and pavement repairs as the top priority hence a further £200,000 was available as a result. Waiting times in the CSC had been reduced to less than ten minutes. The time taken to process council tax benefit claims had reduced to ten days, which was less than half the previous wait time. In various areas contract negotiations had resulted in significant efficiency savings.
Councillor Kellaway highlighted the business rates discount scheme to encourage shops back into the high street. The government had offered a 50% discount, which would be added to by the borough to give a 75% discount.
Councillor Mrs Newbound thanked Councillor Mrs Jones for presenting the Opposition’s viewpoint, which was not an easy task with a small opposition. It would be a poor day for democracy if no-one was prepared to point out problems faced by residents. She commented that Councillor Jones had not criticised schools or buses, nor did she say the proposals had not been properly scrutinised. Councillor Mrs Newbound commented that those receiving council tax benefit had been required to increase their contribution form 8.5% to 10%. She highlighted a number of challenges the council faced, including commercial pressure on suppliers, the financial risk of the Better Care fund and no guarantee that efforts would lead to a reduction in hospital admissions. In relation to allotments, the cost of grade A plots had increased from £56.80 to £162.00. She questioned whether, given the floods, it was a good idea to delete the post of drainage technician and reduce the overall streetcare budget. She also highlighted the increased cost of parking at leisure centres.
Councillor Cox commented that he was pleased to see the increase in the number of community wardens. The challenges to the service would be met by working with staff to provide good frontline services. He highlighted the freeze in car parking charges and the recent removal of charges for resident parking permits.
Councillor Mrs Quick commented that unlike other councils, the Royal Borough was improving library services including an extension of Sunday opening. A new library at Boyn Hill was due to open in March 2014. In relation to Old Windsor library, Councillor Mrs Jones would be aware of correspondence relating to the ongoing dispute over ownership of the building between the Parish Council and Memorial Hall Committee. Once resolved she hoped the improvements to toilet facilities could be progressed. Councillor Mrs Quick also highlighted the savings to be generated by putting the Leisure Centres into a trust, which would not affect services at all. In relation to allotments, she confirmed that the diamond allotments were so popular that there was a waiting list. She hoped the £1m for Windsor public realm projects would improve facilities in the town. She thanked the Lead Member and officers.
Councillor Beer commented that in a previous administration he had helped set up the Section 106 scheme, which substantially subsidised the budget. He commented that there had been a cut to services to Members as they repeatedly received late reports. He had spoken to the Managing Director in June/July 2013 and been told that the situation would be reviewed and addressed. Residents were not being served if councillors did not have sufficient time to review reports.
Councillor Fussey commented on the delay in parking spaces being provided in Eton as a result of legal problems with the land swap. He hoped Councillor Saunders would be able to use his insight and acumen to progress this issue.
Councillor Burbage commented that the Eton car park issue was a legal problem not down to the council but he now believed it was proceeding apace. He highlighted that inflation had been higher in 2007/08 therefore cost pressures were higher. He was very pleased to support Councillor Dudley’s budget, which reflected the borough’s motto of ‘Residents First’. A band D property would be £352 better off than in 2010, equating to an additional £22m in the local economy. The administration had never forgotten its responsibility to spend council tax payers’ money wisely. The budget had been achieved by not accepting second class efforts to fund saving targets such as closing libraries and increasing homecare fees. The £300,000 saving in Adult Social Care high cost placements represented a 0.5% reduction in council tax alone. It was recognised that the council was not always the best provider of services therefore where appropriate, such as in relation to leisure centres, services were transferred. Councillor Burbage highlighted that the council was extending Sunday opening of libraries, spending more money on roads, opening two new schools and maintaining a weekly bin and recycling collection service. The council was meeting manifesto targets, delivering a balanced budget and maintaining its reputation as a flagship council.
Councillor Dudley commented that the increase in council tax benefit contribution was a coalition government policy. He highlighted that Slough was requiring a contribution of 20% and Reading 15%. In relation to Datchet Parish Council, he confirmed he would be writing to the chairman to request details of their budget and a meeting to discuss the proposed increase. In addition, he requested that the equalisation grant worth £11,208 to Datchet, not be paid until the issue was resolved to the Royal Borough’s satisfaction. In relation to staffing reductions, he commented that 1.3m private sector jobs had been created in the UK since 2010. To December 2013 year-on-year from December 2012, the borough had seen a 28% reduction in Job Seeker’s Allowance claimants. Councillor Dudley reminded Members of the scheme which allowed residents to donate back their council tax saving to a particular service. Of 62,000 households, only one had chosen to do so in the previous year. The option would be open to residents again for 2014/15.
It was proposed by Councillor Dudley, seconded by Councillor Burbage, and:
- RESOLVED UNANIMOUSLY:
1. That the detailed recommendations contained in Appendix A, which includes a Council Tax at band D of £926.40, be approved.
2. That Fees and Charges as contained in Appendix B be approved.
3. That the Capital Programme shown in Appendices C and D be adopted by the Council for the year commencing April 2014.
4. That responsibility is delegated to the Cabinet Prioritisation Sub Committee to identify specific scheme budgets for the School Expansion and Highway Maintenance programmes as soon as project specifications have been completed.
5. That the prudential Borrowing limits set out in Appendix L are approved.
6. That Council is asked to note the Business Rate tax base calculation detailed in Appendix P and its use in the calculation of the Council Tax Requirement in Appendix A.
7. That the Head of Finance in consultation with Lead Members for Finance and Children’s Services, the Strategic Director for Children’s Services and the School Forum, is authorised to amend the Total Schools Budget, to reflect actual Dedicated Schools Grant levels and its subsequent allocation.
8. That the Head of Finance in consultation with the Lead Member for Finance and Strategic Director for Operations be authorised to reflect within the Approved Budget for 2014-15 any budget movements required to reflect the outcome of the review of the Operations Directorate structure.
9. That the Head of Finance in consultation with the Lead Member for Finance and Strategic Director for Children’s Services be authorised to reflect within the Approved Budget for 2014-15 any budget movements required to reflect the final outcome of the review of the Children’s Services Directorate structure.
10. That responsibility to include the precept from the Thames Valley Police and Crime Commissioner and the Berkshire Fire and Rescue Authority’s in the overall Council Tax charges is delegated to the Lead Member for Finance and Head of Finance as soon as the precepts are announced.
11. Council delegates to Cabinet authority to add an £800k budget funded from the Councils Development Fund to the 2014-15 Capital Programme, should the future development proposals for Council owned property within the York Road Opportunity Area meet with Cabinets approval.
(Forty Councillors voted in favour of the motion: Natasha Airey, Sinead Archer, George Bathurst, Phillip Bicknell, Paul Brimacombe, Clive Bullock, David Burbage, David Coppinger, Carwyn Cox, Simon Dudley, David Evans, James Evans, Sue Evans, Jesse Grey, Christian Harris, Geoffrey Hill, David Hilton, Charles Hollingsworth, Maureen Hunt, Mohammed Ilyas, Andrew Jenner, Richard Kellaway, Peter Lawless, Paul Lion, Philip Love, Sayonara Luxton, Duncan McBride, Asghar Majeed, Alan Mellins, Marion Mills, Gary Muir, Eileen Quick, Colin Rayner, MJ Saunders, Adam Smith, John Story, Claire Stretton, John Stretton, Derek Wilson and Lynda Yong. Seven Councillors abstained: Malcolm Beer, John Fido, George Fussey, Lynne Jones, Kathy Newbound, John Penfold and Simon Werner.)
- During January’s floods, the Environment Agency (EA) sent out mixed messages and, in my opinion, delayed warnings to our residents. Does the Leader of the Council agree to ask the EA to explain why there was a delay in forewarning the Council and our residents on this important matter?
- Councillor Burbage responded that there had been some suggestions that the warning systems used were confused. He would welcome some investigation to see if lessons could be learnt. He would be happy to write to the EA.
Councillor Burbage responded that he would be happy to do so. He agreed that there was a question of accountability over the role of the EA and whether it was fit for purpose.
- b) Question submitted by Councillor Rayner to Councillor Cox, Lead Member for Environmental Services
- After the flooding of 2003, it was agreed that utilities in Wraysbury would be made resistant to the flooding levels of 2003. The residents of Wraysbury believe this has not happened.
Please would the Lead Member for Environmental Services write to the utility companies asking them if their facilities in Wraysbury are flood proof to the 1947 levels?
- Councillor Cox responded that he would of course write to the utility companies.
Councillor Cox responded that he would be happy to ask the question.
- c) Question submitted by Councillor Yong to Councillor Hill, Lead Member for Highways and Transport
- Could the Lead Member please confirm the Council’s position, including what enforcement measures are in place, where instances of wood, rocks, boulders or other large objects are illegally placed on highway verges around the borough?
Councillor Hill responded that there was no specific written policy relating to the enforcement of obstructions on highway verges. The Council had powers under the Highways Act 1980 to remove objects illegally placed on the highway (including grass verges). Current practice was to invoke this power when notified of obstructions as part of the role of Highway Authority. The frontagers would be requested to remove the offending object(s) giving them 14 day notice to comply. If the item were not removed then the Council would arrange for the removal of the offending item. In appropriate circumstances only 24 hours notice was given. Sample copies of the letters issued to frontagers were available. Enforcement action could also be taken against the person(s) damaging the highway under the Highways Act if appropriate.
Councillor Hill responded that the letters clearly stated that the person who placed the object would be responsible and the council would not meet any damage claims.
- d) Question submitted by Councillor D Evans to Councillor Cox, Lead Member for Environmental Services
- Most winters The Street, Waltham St Lawrence, is flooded with sewage coming out of a Thames Water sewage pipe. This winter the problem has been very severe. Thames Water have shown disregard for the residents affected by this. Can the Lead Member please investigate taking action against Thames Water for their failure to deal with this health and environmental hazard?
Councillor Cox responded that he was aware of the ongoing problem as Ward Councillor. There had been some problems with Thames Water’s response to the recent flooding. Unfortunately the primary legislation had not been amended when Thames Water took on responsibility for the sewage system. He would look into the issue of where responsibility lay.
Councillor Cox responded that he would be happy to do so; it was only right to bring people to account. Whilst a private company, Thames Water also had a significant responsibility to residents.
- e) Question submitted by Councillor Burbage to Councillor Bicknell, Lead Member for Children’s Services
Would the Lead Member please update Council on the planned Serious Case Review, following the judgment and sentencing of Emma Wilson for the murder of her son Callum?
- Councillor Bicknell responded that the Serious Case Review (SCR) would be published on 31 March 2014 with a Panel launch attended by the media. Workshops were also to be held for partner agencies and senior members of the Council to ensure that all were fully briefed and understood the lessons that have been learnt from the Serious Case Review. The publication had been delayed due to the protracted criminal proceedings in the case. The main findings of the review referred to practice as it was in 2011.
Councillor Bicknell responded that he agreed that a central repository would be a good idea. It was worth noting that the council did not have many SCRs, let alone ones that involved murder.
- f) Question submitted by Councillor D. Evans to Councillor Burbage, Leader of the Council
- Last September the Lord Chancellor launched a review into the inefficiencies of the judicial review system. It is now over three months since Mr Justice Mostyn’s judgment to grant a judicial review of Council’s decision to take enforcement action against the Travellers at Shurlock Row. What pressure does the Council intend to bring to prevent further delay?
Councillor Burbage responded that it was worth noting the situation had been ongoing for some time. The chronology dated from 19 December 2009 and included a public enquiry, an enforcement notice and judicial review of the decision to evict. The whole situation was very frustrating for residents, Ward Councillors and the parish council. The cost so far exceeded £100,000 in legal fees, which did not include planning officer time. The significant growth in the JR industry had the practical effect of delaying decisions made by elected Members. He would write to the Lord Chancellor to seek a meeting and also bring in the Home Secretary.
Councillor Burbage responded that it he would be happy to take the points forward.
- a) By Councillor Airey
Councillor Airey introduced her motion. She explained that the issue of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) had recently gained a higher profile on the national and international stage. FGM was a form of child abuse that scarred both physically and emotionally. It had been a criminal offence since 1985; the law had been tightened in 2003 to allow sentences of up to 14 years in prison. It was estimated that 125m women and girls worldwide suffered as a result of FGM and 20,000 girls under age 15 were at risk in the UK; however the true extent of the problem could not be determined as it was a hidden crime. In 2013 the borough had established a multi-agency group to look at developing a co-ordinated approach to tackling child exploitation. FGM had not been identified in any current social care case but it was important that the message that it would not be tolerated be made clear.
Councillor Saunders stated that he wholeheartedly endorsed the motion. FGM was a recognised international violation of human rights. It was merely a social convention; it was not proscribed in any religious text. The Council should do all it could to eliminate FGM from the borough.
Councillor Bicknell stated that he first became aware of the issue the previous year. He had found the practice to be disgusting, with no religious basis.
It was proposed by Councillor Airey, seconded by Councillor Bicknell, and:
- RESOLVED UNANIMOUSLY: That this Council
i. supports the work of the newly established multi agency group looking at Child Sexual Exploitation in RBWM whose remit is to consider this issue;
ii. asks the group to look at ways to work with voluntary organisations such as the NSPCC to tackle this issue;
iii. asks the group to undertake an exercise that establishes the true extent of this notoriously under-reported problem in the Borough;
iv. commends Home Office initiatives such as the “Health Passport” and resolves to make effective use of this and any other additional resources from national government to help in the Council’s efforts to stamp out FGM in the Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead.
Councillor Bathurst introduced his motion. He explained that the Davies Commission had shortlisted three options. The Wraysbury option had been successfully fought off, however the West and North West options remained. The Western option would affect the centre of Windsor; the North West option would affect Eton. The relevant local authority for Gatwick had recently welcomed the option of expansion. Councillor Bathurst commented that the council should support this option, at least in the short term.
Councillor Burbage endorsed the Davies Commission proposal including Gatwick as a positive step, which was more deliverable than Heathrow. There was evidence that growth was mainly in the point-to-point airline industry, which supported the Gatwick option.
Councillor Kellaway explained that until December 2013 he had been a consultant for the owners of Gatwick, but this was no longer the case. Gatwick had the opportunity for a second runway therefore the option made sense. He commented that regardless of increased capacity, the numbers using Heathrow would increase.
Councillor Fussey commented that it would be unthinkable that Eton could become uninhabitable. Two weeks previously, the Eton Community Association had held a public meeting, supported by Borough officers and Councillor Beer, which had been well attended. On behalf of Heathrow Airport, the meeting had been attended by its Sustainability Director. Councillor Fussey commented that he could not see what was sustainable about 50million more passenger journeys and 270,000 extra flights at Heathrow in addition to the loss of flood storage in the area. If planes were flying 30% lower near Eton, the resulting noise disturbance would double.
Councillor Cox explained that the North West option was located 3.5km from the centre of Datchet and 6.5km from the centre of Eton therefore, given the height of planes at this distance, the noise impact would be significant. The argument put forward for the Northern option by Heathrow was that extra capacity would reduce noise as opening hours could be reduced, however this was contradicted by the argument that the innovative runway layout would allow for early morning flights towards the west.
Councillor Beer commented that the motion did not refer to environmental grounds in support of the expansion of Gatwick. Most local authorities around Heathrow were agreed following the opening of the door to the Gatwick option. The impact of noise would be far greater on the Royal Borough because of the ambient noise level in comparison to suburban London. If the Heathrow hub option were adopted mixed mode would be necessary therefore there would be no respite for anyone. The aviation industry worked on the basis of alliances, three of whom worked from Heathrow, The Gatwick option would allow the two smaller alliances to move to Gatwick with room to grow.
It was proposed by Councillor Bathurst, seconded by Councillor Beer, and:
RESOLVED UNANIMOUSLY: That the Council considers that proposals to expand Heathrow to the west, purportedly to lessen noise for London, would damage the quality of life for residents across RBWM and spoil many historic sites including Windsor Castle, Eton College and the fields where Magna Carta was sealed.
This Council continues its opposition to the expansion of Heathrow; continues its support of plans for better transport infrastructure and improved ways of measuring and mitigating the noise impact of existing runways on residents in the borough; notes the motion in July 2013 by West Sussex County Council supporting the principle of Gatwick expansion on economic grounds and joins with them in supporting the principle of Gatwick expansion on those grounds.
- c) By Councillor Brimacombe
The great risk of inappropriate development was a tendency to allow such significant character to be swept away or so diluted as to become fragmented and meaningless, homogeneous or dull. The council should insist upon sensitive development that proposed replacement rather than removal, augmentation rather than obliteration. The council should admire architects who used scale, line and materials to blend new development in to an area with a significant character. This should not be dismissed as pastiche; it should be embraced as pertinent to the context within which it would exist. Furthermore the council should offer its expertise and advice to help identify and preserve significant character within the borough and to have it documented within the Borough Local Plan and neighbourhood development plans.
The Royal Borough was not composed of mere multiple, modern dormitory towns and bland suburbs, after all Maidenhead itself dated to the first bridge in 1280 and Holyport dated to 1283. The seemingly modern Cox Green appeared on a 1792 map. Significant character abounded within the Royal Borough. Councillor Brimacombe asserted that this was not a motion to atrophy the character; to have it stuck in the design and technology of the past. It was a motion to go in to the future acknowledging the past and where appropriate being guided by it. The council should embrace quality of design and build but also insist that a vital aspect of that quality was its ability to enhance not extinguish.
Councillor Brimacombe encouraged Councillors to look to their own Wards and find significant character. Old Windsor was the seat of Saxon Kings and Sunninghill was also home to Saxons and, in more recent times, two of the Beatles. Clewer Village, again Saxon, predated New Windsor and its Castle. Bisham, Cookham, Hurley and the Walthams stood out as distinctive place names on ancient maps of Berkshire. Bray was once nationally famous for its Vicar and was now nationally famous for its food. All Saints Church, Boyn Hill, completed in 1857, was one of the finest examples of the early work of the architect G. E Street. Pinkneys Green was known by that name in the 1700s having been the estate of a Norman knight. The first Girl Guide company in the world was the 1st Pinkneys Green Guides. Furze Platt Halt became a stop on the GWR Wycombe railway in July 1937. If Guards Club Park was an echo of the Edwardian age then Boulters Lock and Riverside spoke loudly of it. Cox Green was once locally famous for its flower show and Ascot was world famous for its racecourse. Centuries of human history were woven in to the character of multiple locations within the Royal Borough due to some geographical feature, notable people or events either social or commercial. It was the opportunity to preserve the significant character of every eligible locality that the motion sought. Localities embedded within every Ward in the Royal Borough would have their own significant character, either ancient or more recent, that was reflected in their local architecture. It was Councillor Brimacombe’s intention, in bringing the motion with the support of his fellow Cox Green Councillors, to enable present day inhabitants and beneficiaries of the rich history of their locality, to have the significant character of their built environment specifically recognised and recorded in such a way as to be of practical use to defend and preserve it.
Councillor Mellins supported the motion as Cox Green councillor and the borough’s Heritage spokesperson. Too often heritage was considered as being fixed in the past; it was more about the future. Without an understanding of our past there was no hope the future would be better. Different areas had a different sense of place and the council should help each to conserve these differences. The continued integration of heritage was important. The council should look at ways to encourage visitors to all areas of the borough, such as the Windsor Royal Walkway.
Councillor Ms Stretton provided an example for context. Once elected she had soon been approached by local residents about the derelict old college site alongside All Saints church. The designated conservation area included the church, old vicarage, former school and alms houses. In 1966 the college had been built in a typical concrete and glass tower-block style. Residents had been subjected to a rollercoaster of proposals for the site, many of which were out of character with the area. However Boyn Hill had been lucky in that the developer had listened to resident views and created a design that, although clearly new build, was in sympathy with the surroundings.
Councillor Saunders, as Lead Member for Planning and Property, was happy to confirm the issues were firmly on his and his officers’ radar.
Councillor Kellaway referred to the Cookham Village Design Statement. Although he would not necessarily suggest other areas develop a VDS, he suggested it could be studied for ideas.
It was proposed by Councillor Brimacombe, seconded by Councillor Mellins, and:
- RESOLVED UNANIMOUSLY: That
i) This Council moves to request that with the intention of encouraging sympathetic development, areas of significant character, due to location, people or events both social or commercial, are specifically recognised through the policies of the Borough Local Plan.
ii) This Council moves to request that the advice and assistance provided by the Borough to those preparing neighbourhood development plans enable them to recognise areas of significant character, due to location, people or events both social or commercial, in their neighbourhood development plans.
- In accordance with Rule of Procedure Part 4A 23.1 of the Constitution, the Chairman called for a vote in relation to whether or not the meeting should continue, as the time had exceeded 10.00pm.
Upon being put to the vote, all those present voted in favour of the meeting continuing.
RESOLVED UNANIMOUSLY: That the meeting continue past 10.00pm.
It was also agreed that the three motions in relation to flooding be discussed together.
d) By Councillor Rayner
Councillor Rayner introduced his motion. He stated that Wraysbury had flooded in 2003, 2007, 2012 and twice in 2014. In 2009 he had asked the relevant Lead Member to meet with Chris Smith, Chief Executive of the EA, to warn him that if no dredging was undertaken, Wraysbury would be flooded again. There were people in Wraysbury who would never be able to return to their homes as a result of the most recent floods.
e) By Councillor Saunders
Councillor Saunders stated that officers across the council rose valiantly to help residents during the recent floods. Senior officers showed great leadership and partnered well with the armed services and the blue-light services.
- g) By Councillor Beer
Councillor Beer introduced his motion. He stressed the need to meet with others before the issue went cold. He therefore suggested the council talk to other local authorities and also get the local MPs on board. After the 2003 floods an EAIRBWMIRunnymede BC Joint Working Group was set up to identify the problems and progressed well until the councils declined to share the cost with the EA. This must not happen again as it helped create the Lower Thames Flood Relief Management Strategy, but was unable to progress it further. The principle of partnership funding was opposed by the Group but not at higher levels. Councillor Beer highlighted that road frontagers did not pay for roadworks, so why should major river frontagers pay to make them flow?
The Jubilee River was not the cause of all the flooding, but its operation may need tuning. Dredging was not a quick fix cure to local flooding, but he shared the logic that it would help. The main reason for its abandonment was that the dredgings became classified as toxic material and had to be dumped in the North Sea. The cost and other environmental issues stopped it, but there should be pressure to review the subject.
Sealed and pumped foul drainage needed to be a statutory retrospective requirement in flood areas, Sustainable Drainage Systems should be widespread; legislation was needed.
Councillor Beer hoped that the issues would be discussed at the Flood Forum and relevant items picked up by Cabinet.
Councillor Grey commented that, in relation to the second part of Councillor Rayner’s motion, an alleviation scheme would be the answer to all the problems. Half the funding was already available; there was a need to press for the other half.
Councillor Burbage confirmed he was happy to write to the EA in relation to dredging and also the Chancellor in relation to a Lower Thames Strategy. It was a mistake to assume that local authorities could be partners for major flood alleviation schemes because the cost was way beyond budget. A lessons learnt exercise would be important. He agreed that efforts should be co-ordinated. The Prime Minister had visited Wraysbury the previous week; he had been keen to learn how volunteers had found the efforts of the various agencies. He echoed the thanks to all volunteers, partner agencies, staff and Councillors for their efforts in recent weeks.
Councillor Dudley commented that it was clear that local authorities should not be contributors to flood alleviation schemes. The government needed to provide adequate protection for borough residents.
Councillor Cox echoed the thanks to volunteers, partner agencies, staff and Councillors. He had spent a long time at the Emergency Operations Centre at Tinkers Lane and viewed the camaraderie of all involved. He shared some statistics with Members: Over 10/11 February 2014 one thousand tonnes of sand was delivered to Tinkers lane. At the height of production 1000 sandbags were being produced. In January 30,000 sandbags were distributed across the borough and a further 30,000 in February before the central operation, when a further 150,000 were distributed. Chemical toilets were placed in effected areas. Continual updates were placed on the web, Facebook and Twitter. The communications team had dealt with 100 media calls in relation to the flooding. The streetcare team had operated a 24/7 service for large periods since Christmas. The CSC had dealt with an additional 2500 calls. Despite the heartache, the experience had shown the borough could be proud of the efforts of all involved.
It was proposed by Councillor Rayner, seconded by Councillor Grey, and:
RESOLVED UNANIMOUSLY: That the Council notes the Prime Minister’s recent statements in support of dredging as a means of flood prevention and in order to prevent further distress to residents of this Borough asks the Leader of the Council
i. to write to the Chairman of the Environment Agency and the Environment Secretary asking for the immediate reinstatement of regular dredging of the Thames; and also as a permanent solution;
ii. to write to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to add the River Thames Scheme (Datchet to Teddington) as top priority to its programme of infrastructure projects
It was proposed by Councillor Saunders, seconded by Councillor Cox, and:
RESOLVED UNANIMOUSLY: That the Council thanks its employees at all levels, especially in the Emergency, Streetcare and public protection departments, for their time and dedication and who spared no effort in providing assistance to those residents who needed help.
- The Council also thanks the Fire, Police and Ambulance services, the Army, the Environment Agency, the RSPCA and many other organisations, too many to mention here, who helped to save lives and property during the emergency.
In addition the Council thanks the many volunteers of all ages working in the communities for their selfless physical efforts without whom the disasters would have become a catastrophe.
It was proposed by Councillor Beer, seconded by Councillor Rayner, and:
RESOLVED UNANIMOUSLY: That this Council extends deepest sympathy to all who suffer from flooding and thanks all who have toiled to help.
This Council resolves to engage other Councils and MPs to prioritise the Thames Flood Scheme, dredging and fewer disposal restrictions, sealed and pumped soil drainage, upstream water retention, and nationally fund all flow improvements, as rain falls everywhere so should disposal costs
f) By Councillor Hilton
Councillor Hilton introduced his motion. He explained that on 8 November 2013 a footpath between Ascot station and the High Street had been closed. The path had originally been created to give access to the racecourse. The footpath was shown on maps as early as 1870. The response received following a number of complaints made to the station manager following the closure was a simple statement that the path had no lighting and was therefore unsafe in wet or icy conditions. The path would be opened on race days. Residents had advised him that there were more reported accidents on the station than the path and in difficult conditions people were sensible and used alternative routes.
The closure of the path meant it could not be used in daylight for trips to the local schools or high street. The path was 4 metres wide and therefore used by cyclists and those with mobility scooters. The alternative route was not appropriate because of flooding and a narrow footpath.
Councillor John Stretton, as Chairman of the Rights of Way and Highway Licensing Panel explained that given the path’s history it would be a simple process to request re-opening.
Councillor James Evans commented that the path was a far better option for cyclists than Station Hill.
Councillor Mrs Yong commented on an elderly resident who was unable to access the Post Office because of the closure.
Councillor McBride commented that the path was an important facility for local residents and gave very safe access. It was ludicrous that race-day goers were less of a danger than residents visiting the library.
It was proposed by Councillor Hilton, seconded by Councillor McBride, and:
RESOLVED UNANIMOUSLY: That the Council should negotiate with Southwest Trains and Network Rail to establish this path as a public right of way, as there is evidence that the path has been open and in public use since 1870 with no evidence of previous annual closure.
- h) By Councillor Harris
Councillor Harris requested his motion be deferred to the next meeting.
The meeting, which started at 7.30pm, ended at 10.26pm.