05:07PM, Wednesday 29 January 2020
Concerns over resident safety were raised at a council meeting in response to plans to reduce the number of Royal Borough community wardens.
On Tuesday, councillors on the communities overview and scrutiny panel discussed parts of the proposed budget for 2020/21 at a public meeting for the first time.
With an overspend of £3.7million projected for this financial year, a draft budget intended to provide nearly £6m in savings has been produced.
One of the council’s proposed savings is to reduce the number of community wardens in the borough from 25 to 19, freeing an estimated £180,000.
Cllr Helen Price (TBF, Clewer & Dedworth East), one of two opposition councillors on the panel, said: “If I am looking at the priorities of the borough, we needed 25 wardens to keep us safe.
“It’s a stringent priority to keep residents safe, and I don’t know how by reducing them we will still be safe.”
Cllr David Cannon (Con, Datchet, Horton and Wraysbury), lead member for public protection, was not at the meeting, but Royal Borough managing director Duncan Sharkey said: “Some services will not get picked up that do get picked up now.
“There will be fewer wardens, there will be less work done.”
Also at the meeting, the council’s proposal to cut library hours, projected to save £220,000 next year and £265,000 the year after, was questioned by Cllr Price.
If voted through, libraries would not open on Sundays and weekday closing time would be brought forward from 7pm to 5pm.
Cllr Price said: “I am trying to envisage somebody that doesn’t have the facility to sit at home because they are in an environment that isn’t quiet.
“It means they use the library to do their work and that may not be available to them any more, so their life will be harder as a consequence.”
In response, Cllr Samantha Rayner (Con, Eton and Castle), deputy council leader and lead member for resident and leisure services, said: “The libraries will still be used by children to do their homework, I am sure they will still have access to the library to do these things on evenings and weekends.”
Cllr Price pointed out that the libraries would no longer be open on Sundays if the changes are approved.
Further elements of the budget will be debated at overview and scrutiny panels over the next few weeks. The adults, children and health overview and scrutiny panel was due to take place last night (Wednesday).
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