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Councillor 'livid' after parking strategy deferred at cabinet meeting

An ‘absolutely livid’ councillor has blasted Conservative members after a parking strategy that was due to be debated at cabinet last night (Thursday) was deferred at late notice.

Cllr John Baldwin (Lib Dem, Belmont), tussled with council leader Cllr Andrew Johnson (Con, Hurley and Walthams) at the Zoom meeting, which lasted only 19 minutes following the withdrawal of the largest agenda item.

Councillors were due to debate the Royal Borough’s parking strategy from 2020 to 2023, which details all things car parks, parking spaces and predicted parking growths and reductions in the borough over the next three years.

But opposition councillors – including Cllr Baldwin and Cllr Jon Davey (WWRA, Clewer and Dedworth West) – were left frustrated by this report being deferred to November’s cabinet meeting.

According to parking lead Cllr David Cannon (Con, Datchet, Horton and Wraysbury), the reasoning behind this is because the council has since received ‘several helpful comments’ since publishing the strategy.

“We have decided we are deferring the parking strategy to the next meeting,” Cllr Cannon told members.

“The rationale for this is since publishing this document, we have received several helpful comments that we wish to see if we can incorporate in the strategy before bringing it to cabinet.”

This statement was met with a brief response from Cllr Johnson, who affirmed he would be taking no questions on the matter on the night.

But he was stopped in his tracks by Cllr Baldwin, who was furious with the decision, saying he and other members had spent ‘many hours’ scouring the report and had plenty of ‘serious questions’ to ask about it.

“It seems incredible to me that this decision has been taken in the last two minutes,” he said.

“Many members have spent many hours since Tuesday evening, when this paper was released. We have poured over it, we have talked about it with our residents, we have taken on board a tremendous amount of feedback, we came here tonight with serious questions.

“Can I just ask, if there is to be a pause – and frankly, given the abject nature of the report I am glad there is – can we at least be reassured we will be consulted between now and when it is brought back to cabinet.

“I am absolutely livid that this report has been withdrawn. I must insist you give us a serious undertaking that you will consult with opposition members and we will be fully allowed to engage in any changes that are made to the report.”

Cllr Johnson responded by saying that Cllr Baldwin would be ‘well-versed’ to engage in next month’s debate given his efforts reading the report.

“You clearly say you have put a lot of work in,” he said.

“One assumes that therefore you would be very well-versed and prepared for the next meeting when we discuss in even greater detail.

“If you have any questions or comments on the paper, I would be grateful if you would pass them on to the lead member in advance of the next cabinet meeting, so they can be discussed and incorporated into the strategy which comes before cabinet on November 27.

“But your comments have been noted.”

Cllr Baldwin responded by saying: “Thank you, no would have been more concise”.

To which Cllr Johnson said ‘there is no need to get grumpy about it’.

“There is every need to get grumpy about it,” Cllr Baldwin replied.

Later in the meeting, Cllr Davey said he was hoping to be talking about the parking strategy, with Cllr Johnson telling him ‘not tonight’.

“I get that, but obviously we can call it into overview and scrutiny, at the start of November, so I’ll set the wheels in motion for that,” Cllr Davey said.

This was met with a distant ‘hear hear’ from Cllr Baldwin in the background.

After the meeting, councillors continued to debate the decision to withdraw the paper, with Cllr Catherine del Campo tweeting on Thursday night to say she would ‘have much preferred to spend time with my kids this week’.

“I’ll make it up to them tomorrow though,” she added.

Also discussed at the meeting was the council’s response to a Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman report, which was published on September 3.

The report found that the council was at fault for their care of ‘Mr and Mrs Y’, who were separated in 2018 after 59 years of marriage while under the council’s care. Both family members have since passed away.

This had previously been discussed at an adults, children and health overview and scrutiny panel on October 1.

Hilary Hall, director of adults, health and commissioning, again apologised and said ‘nothing will change or put right what happened to the family’, before updating members on three steps the council has taken to make sure a similar case does not occur again.

The first relates to the assessment of care for those in need. Ms Hall assured that this has ‘completely changed’, with a ‘fundamental review of the methodology undertaken’.

“We have new procedures, new forms, and new mandatory guidance in place,” she added.

The second refers to domiciliary care – care at home. Ms Hall said the council now employs a dedicated person who is responsible for ‘monitoring the performance of our domiciliary care providers’.

Finally, the co-ordination of the complaints process has been altered, with a new system where a senior manager is responsible for overseeing each complaint.

“We are due to report back to the ombudsman on November 25, and the detailed paper that went to the overview and scrutiny panel will form the basis of that response, together with the minutes of the meeting, and hopefully the endorsement of this cabinet,” she said.

“I hope that what I have outlined gives assurance from both myself and the service that we have taken the decisive action required and are committed to learning from what has happened to ensure it does not happen again.”

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