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Viewpoint: Clashing councillors, good manners and town gridlock

Featuring debate on 'party politics', showing good manners in trying times, A4 roadworks and the ongoing Battlemead Common saga.

Parking paper paused due to helpful ideas

As RBWM lead member for public protection and parking, I decided to withdraw the presentation of our refreshed Borough Parking Strategy paper from last month’s cabinet meeting, as I wanted to consider some helpful suggestions from members of the public, to see if they could be included in the paper.

At this virtual cabinet meeting, some opposition councillors expressed indignation at the paper being withdrawn because they complained that they had spent a large amount of time working on the published paper, in readiness for discussing it at the meeting.

In fact, as has been widely reported, Cllr Baldwin (Lib Dem) stated he was ‘livid’.

To take account of the work done by Cllr Baldwin and his colleagues, he was asked by the leader of the council (Cllr Johnson) to contact me with any ‘questions or comments’.

This was to facilitate him having the consultation he was demanding, so his views could be considered for inclusion in the updated paper, rather than his usual (politically motivated) belated challenges of the completed paper.

Unfortunately Cllr Baldwin has chosen to not take up this opportunity but I am sure he will be subsequently bringing up matters that, had he decided to engage with us ‘as offered’, could have been considered in the preparation of the updated Borough Parking Strategy paper.

It appears Cllr Baldwin and his Liberal Democrat colleagues would prefer to play petty party politics, rather than contribute constructively to deliver for the residents of the Borough.

As before, this updated strategy paper includes the proposals for a ‘pilot’ of a new residents parking discount scheme, which will now be brought to cabinet this month.

It is hoped that any subsequent Lib Dem challenges, that could have been avoided, do not prevent this pilot being brought in before Christmas.

As an administration, we seek to work with all elected members and residents but can only do so if the Lib Dems and their opposition colleagues choose to engage constructively with us. This has been a missed opportunity for them to do so.

Cllr DAVID CANNON

Conservative, Datchet, Horton and Wraysbury


Good manners and gratitude are vital

I would just like to bring to everyone's attention the need for manners and patience in these difficult times.

I have been more and more aware of arrogant people who think that they can be rude and abusive to shop staff when they are being reminded of the necessary safety requirements whilst out shopping.

I am very surprised that there are so many people who still feel that they have the right to tut, roll their eyes and even argue with shop assistants.

The rules have been around for long enough and clearly advertised in the media, hands, face, space.

My four-year-old nephew understands the need to stay away from people when he’s out in the town, he knows he needs gel when he comes in from playing outside and he washes his hands routinely.

So, come on adults of Maidenhead and Cookham, respect small shops with restrictions on how many customers they can have in at one time, wear a mask every time you step into a shop and show some understanding for the businesses who are trying to maintain the same standard of service and choice with possibly less staff.

Consider that these services and shops may not be able to have as many staff working as they used to due to space regulations, that they may not have part-time staff such as students due to the increased risk and seasonal staff numbers may have had to be reduced.

These key workers stayed open and provided us with basic essentials through the last lockdown so let's thank them and be grateful that they are still open.

KATHERINE COWDERY

Wavell Road

Maidenhead


Clearing up the battle over Battlemead

In response to Deborah Mason's letter and her rather unnecessary sarcastic remarks (Viewpoint, November 5) I feel I must clarify my position on Battlemead and correct her misunderstanding.

Let us not lose sight of the fact that Battlemead Common was purchased by the RBWM as a public open space.

Public means for the benefit of all including people wishing to walk enjoying views and people wishing to exercise their dog.

I have had many residents say that they feel ‘locked out’ of the area or they ask ‘when will it open’?

The council needs to consider all aspects of the land, which is why they have spent a considerable amount of time and money commissioning a leading firm of ecologists to evaluate the area and guide on the best way forward.

We need to find a balance between the needs of all the residents of the Borough, who after all paid for the land, and the needs of the wildlife.

In the latest revision of the masterplan, 60 per cent of the land has been reserved for wildlife and will not be accessed by visitors.

The remaining areas will be left to grow and will have mown paths to reduce impact.

We are extremely lucky that Battlemead sits in an area surrounded by thousands of acres of pasture, private gardens, fields, waterways and woods including and not forgetting a large National Trust nature reserve and the 375 acre Cliveden Estate on the opposite bank of the Thames.

Only a small percentage of this land can be accessed by the public but of course it can all be accessed by birds choosing to settle there.

We need to consider the environment but we need to consider the residents too.

Cllr GREG JONES

Conservative, Riverside


‘No horse’ signs do raise certain questions

I was surprised by the story of signs aimed at preventing horse riding in Cookham’s lanes but it raises a couple of points however tolerant one is of equestrians.

The typical image of horses is one of herds of the beauties charging across the landscape with their manes flowing.

They are naturally gregarious and full of energy.

Areas like Cookham would have been much better suited to horses 150 years ago before thousands of houses were built, there were no cars, and farming had not become mechanised.

There were many solid working horses then as well as some of the hunter types but they had plenty of fields to live in.

Is it really justifiable, at a time when we are becoming more appreciative of wildlife, that horses can be kept socially isolated and in circumstances when their only exercise is a plod along busy roads?

Should horses only be kept, in this sub-rural environment, where they can live in a sufficiently large paddock that allows them to charge around at will, preferably with equine companions?

Recent urbanisation has seen the loss of bridleways but perhaps this is a reflection of the fact that the commuter belt is no longer a suitable environment for horses.

Probably all horse riders are also motorists and sometimes have appointments to meet that involve driving.

If they were to come across a car, on the local roads, being driven at walking pace, covered with police tape and the words ‘POLITE NOTICE’, they too might just be a bit irritated.

Masquerading as a mounted police officer is not endearing to road users.

I understand that some horses are nervous creatures and so are some drivers, but a well-controlled horse trotting along our roads would cause much less upset and be a pleasant reminder that we live in a beautiful bit of countryside.

I would not want to ban courteous equestrians from our lanes but I would like the more general welfare of horses to be considered.

Dr ADRIAN DOBLE

Dean Lane

Cookham Dean


Gridlockdown is keeping us at home

The council have found a unique way of enforcing the ‘stay at home’ instructions from the Government under Lockdown 2 – ensure every exit road out of the town is affected by roadworks thus preventing anyone from going anywhere.

Not content with the usual traffic delays at weekends when the M4 is closed for bridgeworks, there are roadworks in the A4 near the Miller & Carter, there are roadworks on the Bath Road at the top of Castle Hill, and there are also traffic lights on the Marlow Road, outside the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

The Braywick Road is virtually the only viable exit from the town.

To get from the Bishop Centre on Friday morning the route was through Taplow and onto the Bath Road near Sytners and once over the bridge along the A4 to Frascati Way avoiding the tailback at the roundabout at the bottom of Castle Hill and along the Braywick Road round the Stafferton Way roundabout and back up Grenfell Road.

A 10 minute journey took 25 minutes and added about three miles to the trip.

It would seem sensible to avoid any roadworks on the A4 during the period when the motorway is closed at weekends, but not for the RBWM, that would require organisation and planning.

Another major organisational blunder RBWM, well done.

MERVYN BUSTON

East Road

Maidenhead


Separate planning panels for each town

I agree with Cllr Coppinger's letter (Viewpoint, November 5).

He is absolutely correct, parish and town councils do not have any executive power over planning decisions.

His letter however also crystallises the issues surrounding borough wide planning decisions.

Two major planning applications for the Clewer and Dedworth West ward were considered at the borough wide development panel (Ruddlespool and Aldi) and yet no local councillor had a vote on these, despite both applications having a significant and wide ranging effects on our community. The problems were further exacerbated by my rather clumsy three minute response in an attempt to represent several diverse local organisations.

The first issue is easily solved with a return to separate Windsor and Maidenhead planning panels.

The second issue is more substantive, a town council for Windsor would be able to co-ordinate the views of local organisations, provide a more professional and substantiated response to local planning applications and to effectively participate in the democratic process.

Whilst it cannot make the final decision, they can ensure fair and proper representation of local people on local issues.

As a resident, I would much prefer to be under the table begging for scraps, than locked in a cage with a muffle on.

RICHARD ENDACOTT

Kingsfield

Windsor


Serco fiasco simply boggles the mind

What on earth is happening, not just in our borough but in the country as a whole?

You cannot run a business profitably when you have to conform to a lot of illogical rules that change from one day to the next.

The economy was already heading towards a depression, now the train wreck will come even quicker and make 1929 look like a walk in the park.

The whole of Europe and the UK should have locked down tight from day one and this would all be over by now.

In London, Sadiq Khan and TfL have completely ruined the city.

They have spent money on unnecessary cycle ways and ‘road improvements’ that make no sense at all.

Virtually all the money from the congestion charge is actually spent on administering the congestion charge. Yet London is still congested.

Now the congestion charge is £15 and runs until 10pm, many bus lanes are now in operation 24 hours so they can rake in more fines, and they want expand the ULEZ out to the North and South circular.

Do they think that everyone who works and lives in the confines of the North and South circular has the money for a new car or can afford to pay the charge?

As for our local government. Why did Serco get the bin contract?

Just look at this company’s other mind boggling catastrophes.

Serco was forced out of a contract to provide out-of-hours GP services in Cornwall after it was discovered that the company had been falsifying data and that it had a ‘bullying culture’ which discouraged whistleblowing in the interest of patients.

Serco made £165million profit after being paid to run a ‘shambolic’ test and trace.

This is just the tip of the iceberg.

Why is it that Serco, G4s, and Mitie get government contracts without any sort of tendering process?

Also worrying is the fact that these companies can operate in any way they wish, and no one can question them because private companies are not subject to a Freedom of Information request.

The ridiculous decisions go on.

Look at that daft idea of a themed pedestrian crossing.

Our council is all but bankrupt and they wanted to spend eight thousand pounds on a themed crossing.

Thank God it was rejected.

As for Josh Reynolds remark that eight thousand pounds wasn’t a lot of money (Advertiser, October 1), tell that to all the people that sleep rough in the borough every night and all the parents struggling to feed their children.

I get the distinct impression that our politicians, both in local and central government are totally ignorant of the circumstances of the people they represent.

They appear to live in some sort of cloud cuckoo land where they believe everyone lives in a nice semi, has a well-paid job and a bottomless pit of cash to pay for their endless bad decisions.

KEITH CHAPMAN

Cornwall Close

Maidenhead


Protecting and valuing young people in care

Despite the challenges of the ongoing pandemic and the difficult world we are living in today, it is important to celebrate the truly outstanding contribution of some of our young people who

continue to do extraordinary things in extraordinary times.

This is particularly the case when thinking about some of our children in care and care leavers who never cease to impress and amaze me with their brilliant achievements, awesome resilience and critical insights.

At the recent full council meeting, I presented a critical paper regarding the council’s role as corporate parents: protecting and supporting our children in care and care leavers.

As lead member for children’s services, I have the honour and privilege to chair the corporate parenting forum, which includes youth ambassadors and some of our children in care as representatives.

These are critical meetings that allow our young people to speak, articulate their experiences and contribute to how we can improve the service and offering.

Since becoming chair last May, I have fundamentally changed the format of the meetings to allow for a more informal and relaxed approach removing much of the formality that surrounds council meetings and encouraging our young people to set agendas, speak openly and to control the meeting set up.

We have had live workshops and exercises run by our young people including a live simulation of what it is like to be taken into care; a truly profound and moving experience that provoked me to request policy changes to parts of our service.

I can comfortably say these sessions are easily the most interesting and rewarding meetings I chair and attend. I thank all our young people for all the insights they bring.

The report highlighted the excellent progress we have made combined with our recent Good rating by Ofsted which specifically accentuated areas of outstanding practice in this area.

Protecting vulnerable people is at the heart of this administration’s values and agenda and there is nothing more important than vulnerable children.

Our young people, particularly those in care, continue to inspire me with their enthusiasm, humility, worldly perspective and sense of fun.

Every single one them are deeply valued and we will continue to do our very best to give each and every person, the very best life chances and opportunities possible across the Royal Borough.

Cllr STUART CARROLL

Conservative, Boyn Hill


Take action to remedy ‘horrid behaviour’

I am shocked and disappointed at the behaviour of Conservative councillors Maureen Hunt and Leo Walters (Advertiser, October 29).

To think that both councillors had the sheer audacity to behave in the manner in which they did is a great disappointment to the Conservative Party, the Royal Borough and all those who reside within this borough.

I have been raised for the better part of my life as a native Windsorian who also happens to be a Polish/Caribbean woman, so it is not a small thing when I say that watching the RBWM Council meeting I felt disappointed in being the prior and attacked as being the latter.

It is fundamentally unacceptable for Cllr Maureen Hunt to see fit to describe the British Empire with praise as an institution that gave to the world so many things without realising that it also industrialised the practice of slavery in such a manner that we still see the fallout of black oppression today in the United States, our ex-colony, and frankly in our own country as well as many others.

To deem the trans-Atlantic slave trade merely as unfortunate and deem it irrelevant to modern discussions on race is small-minded and ignorant.

Not to mention that deeming modern slavery more important than its predecessors establishes a hierarchy for oppression where contemporary oppression is deemed more important than its historic roots – a point I do not need to clarify as being horrifyingly ignorant and encourages erasure of history.

Not to mention, it is atrocious that Cllr Leo Walters saw fit to describe minority ethnic individuals as ‘coloured’ and I would ask him how racial sensitivity training is unnecessary when a councillor in 2020 saw fit to use such terminology.

The councillor failed to even act by his own argument and has highlighted exactly why such a motion is important and why it was a positive thing that it passed. Especially since the councillor seemed more concerned with being called a racist than dealing with racism, uniting against racism, or ensuring he and his colleagues are educated on racism.

Whilst the content of the motion is available to the public and I do not need to expand on its content past the work of the brilliant councillors defending it, I find myself disgusted at the councillors that represent part of the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead.

Action needs to be taken to remedy the horrid behaviour they exhibited in this council meeting.

JESSICA LEE

Windsor


Council has a strong record of diversity

Actions speak louder than words.

RBWM has an excellent record of diversity – 16.6 per cent of employees and 14.6 per cent of councillors compare with a BAME population of 13.8 per cent.

Since 2007 there have been 11 BAME councillors elected of which Asghar Majeed became our first Muslim Mayor and our current Mayor, Cllr Mrs Luxton, was born in Goa.

RICHARD KELLAWAY

Startins Lane

Cookham Dean


Paying a living wage is so important

This is Living Wage Week, an occasion to publicise the work of the Living Wage Foundation and celebrate Living Wage employers.

The real Living Wage is independently-calculated by the Foundation, based on what people actually need to live.

The new rate for next year is £9.50 per hour (for outside London), which is higher than the Government minimum wage.

I believe employers should aim to pay at least a real Living Wage because paying people what they need to live on is the right thing to do.

Achieving it is a feather in their cap and they should be applauded for it.

It is an unfortunate unintended consequence of the coronavirus and the

furlough scheme that many in low-pay sectors of the economy are currently

receiving less than the government minimum wage, let alone the real Living Wage.

Once the current economic turmoil abates, I hope the spotlight of public

attention can turn to the importance of the Living Wage.

SIMON BOND

Castle Mews

Maidenhead


Finding peace in an image of autumn

I was reading the letters in Viewpoint (October 29), which were largely criticisms, fears and understandable worries.

In the midst of these, it was a delight to see Richard O’Keeffe’s glorious autumn picture, full of beauty and tranquillity.

Thank you Richard.

The beauty of God’s world brings us some solace in these difficult days.

JEAN JACKSON

Alexandra Road

Maidenhead


No flowers, no leaves, no birds – November

Thomas Hood’s poem ‘November’ is well known.

No sun – no moon –

No morn – no noon –

No dawn – no dusk – no proper time

of day –

(and so it goes on...)

I now add a few more verses with

apologies to Mr Hood:

No kisses – no hugs

So we don’t share our bugs

No sport and no gym

Yet we all must keep trim.

No wedding bells ring,

No choir boys sing.

No going to church

Will leave some in the lurch

No pubs and no club,

Shopping only for grub.

We must all come to terms

With no haircuts or perms.

No going out for tea,

No trips to the sea.

However, take heart,

If we all play our part

The virus will go, then just wait and see,

We’ll throw off our masks and all be set free.

SUSAN GRIMSHAW

Wessex Way

Maidenhead

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