Agenda item

Budget 2020/21

To consider the proposed Budget.


Councillor Hilton, Lead Member for Finance, informed the Panel that they had been given the proposed savings, fees and charges and capital schemes in the Budget for 2020/21. The Panel was asked for its comments on the Budget, which would be passed on to Cabinet for consideration.


The Chairman said that the Panel would look at four key savings that had been picked out in advance of the meeting for scrutiny. With regard to parking, the Chairman said that it was fair to have a paid residential parking scheme to tackle the problem of commuters taking up parking. However, this charge could be dependent on the council tax band of individual residents, along with discounts for electric vehicles and key workers.


Councillor Werner asked how the saving figure for parking had come about and what would happen if a resident wanted to opt out of the parking scheme.


Councillor Haseler said that the parking scheme in poorer areas of the borough could hit some residents hard and that the council should find a way to give those who may struggle to pay the parking permit charge some sort of exemption or discount.


Councillor Jones said that increasing the price of visitor vouchers, which was higher than neighbouring councils, would hit residents hard. She said that this needed to be looked at. Councillor Price said that volunteers who would need to park would also be hit, for example those that volunteer to care and look after the elderly.


Councillor Rayner, Deputy Leader of the Council, Resident and Leisure Services, HR, IT, Legal, Performance Management and Windsor, said that RBWM not charging for parking permits was very unusual as the majority of other councils do charge their residents. It was planned to be £50 for the first permit and £70 for the second. They were currently considering how to link the permits to council tax bands to ensure that the system was fair.


Angela Huisman, Library and Resident Contact Lead, said that the £250,000 figure that was in the savings for parking took into account two thirds of residents adopting new paid parking permit scheme, with the other third deciding not to apply for one. There was an easy process in place to remove the permit if was no longer wanted available to residents and there would be an increase in visitor vouchers. It was also confirmed that the borough received the funding from tickets given out, this applied to any area under the enforcement of RBWM.


Councillor Sharpe said that the schemes were currently in place where parking had been deemed a problem and that in his view residents felt that a parking permit was worthwhile paying for.


Councillor Werner said that the process to apply for a permit was not clear, so questioned how the process of opting out would be made clear for residents. The costs versus the income gained from enforcing parking permits was meant to be cost neutral.


Councillor Johnson, Leader of the Council, confirmed to the Panel that residents with an electric vehicle would receive an exemption from having to pay for a parking permit. Other discounts would also be considered in due course. He compared figures from Reading, which had increased parking permits from £30 to £40 for the first car, while a second parking permit would cost £150.


Councillor Taylor asked if parking permit schemes that were issued by Housing Solutions but enforced by RWBM would also have a charge. Councillor Cannon, Lead Member for Public Protection and Parking, said that there were around 30 streets in the borough which had private schemes in place, where the permits were issued and managed externally but RBWM was responsible for enforcing. These schemes would remain running for another year before anything was to change.


Councillor Davey said that electric cars needed to be in a certain spot to allow them to be charged and therefore this would prove to be challenge when parking and issuing parking permits for certain areas. Councillor Clark, Lead Member for Transport and Infrastructure, said that it would be based on demand and that it was not an issue directly relating to the permits.


Councillor Werner asked for confirmation on whether the permits would be cost neutral. Councillor Cannon said that parking permits incurred costs to enforce them and for things like appeals, so therefore a charge was needed to cover this cost.


Moving to grant payments, Councillor Jones said that in the previous years budget, grants had been increased yet this year they had been decreased again. She asked why the amount of funding was decreasing, especially as community groups that benefit from the grants can help the council.


Councillor Rayner said that it had indeed increased a few years ago, but due to financial pressures they had taken the decision to reduce them again. Councillor Hilton suggested that there were other sources of funding available to groups and charities, and that they should not rely on the council’s grants scheme.


The Chairman said that that had been a reduction in funding for Norden Farm to put into CAB grants.


The debate then moved to look at the council tax level being increased. Councillor Werner said that it would hit the most vulnerable in society and asked how many people would be affected.


The Leader of the Council said that RBWM had the lowest level of council tax outside of London and was less expensive when compared to other Berkshire authorities. He said that the rise was fair and affordable and for the 6,000 residents who received council tax benefits would only be paying a modest amount on their bill.


Councillor Price asked if residents had been informed of the increase. Louise Freeth said that they would consult with individuals about the rise and would raise awareness of this through social media, emails and leaflets.


Councillor Jones raised concerns for Norden Farm and asked if RBWM had been in communication with them regarding the cut in funding, especially as they did a lot of educational work. Councillor Rayner confirmed that there had been discussions with them to ensure that they would still be able to cope with a reduction in funding.


Councillor Werner asked about ‘Around the Royal Borough’, which was a newsletter about events in the borough, and whether this would be sent digitally or still have hard copies produced. The Leader of the Council said that they were looking to move fully digital but that residents could request a hard copy if they wished.


Councillor Jones asked if mobile phones that RBWM gave out to staff were being used effectively. Nikki Craig, Head of HR, ICT and Corporate Projects, said that they had been ensuring that all phones were being used and any that were not being used had the contract cancelled so as not to waste money.

Councillor Werner queried if posts in the council which would be made redundant had been identified. Duncan Sharkey said that there were no specific posts and that all but one were currently vacant.


The Chairman said that, in the capital programmes section of the Budget, that the library heating was a significant sum of £250,000, along with the cost of the cooling system in the Town Hall.


Angela Huisman said that the heating system was old but they were looking at ways to reduce the amount of time that the heating was on for. The Leader of the Council said that the Town Hall would need to be renovated to meet modern day standards and also to meet carbon targets.


Councillor Davey asked about the 24 hour pothole pledge scheme and why this investment was not listed as part of the budget. Duncan Sharkey said that the pothole pledge was not part of last year’s budget because it was implemented in the middle of the year. Councillor Clark said that the commitment was not required anymore as targets had regularly reached 100% and it was felt that other things were more of a priority.


Looking at the fees and charges, Councillor Jones and Werner expressed concern that residents who lived in the areas surrounding Windsor and Maidenhead would be unable to easily access the town centre due to this increase in parking charges. It was suggested that this should be looked at, especially to continue to allow Windsor’s shops and high streets to remain open and vibrant.


Councillor Werner suggested that the advantage card discount for parking could still be kept in Windsor. Councillor Taylor said that another option could be to give an advantage card discount for the first hour of parking for residents.


Councillor Jones reiterated that she would like Cabinet to consider the number of visitor vouchers, to ensure that there were no barriers to opting out of the scheme and that anything agreed in regard to Norden Farm went through the Communities O&S Panel for consideration.


The Panel agreed that the comments made by Members would be passed on to Cabinet for consideration.

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