05:55PM, Wednesday 17 February 2021
The Royal Borough’s administration and opposition are split on the budget, with the Conservatives claiming a win for economic prudence, while the opposition parties feel the council is ‘abandoning’ residents and spinning the information.
Leading opposition councillors have criticised the draft budget due to be put to the full council on Tuesday – describing it as ‘devastating’ and calling for more transparency.
Liberal Democrat leader Cllr Simon Werner (Pinkneys Green) said he has ‘never seen such a devastating budget’ in his 25 years as a councillor.
“My fear is that it’s ideological for them – they believe in small state where the council does as little as possible,” he said.
“This council is withdrawing from the community. Libraries are being closed, Norden Farm and the Old Court will be taken down to nothing. It’s a spiral of decline.
“The libraries are going to be gone just at the very time we need them the most – COVID-19 is creating a mental health tsunami,” he added.
“I think the council are really abandoning a whole lot of people who are struggling.”
In response to Cllr Johnson’s call for the opposition to come up with ‘genuine’ alternatives and not just negativity, Cllr Werner said that he had come up with several ‘actually really positive’ ideas which the Conservatives ‘just aren’t interested in’.
These include placing Community Infrastructure Levies (CIL) on Maidenhead town centre developments – whereby developers pay the council a levy when they obtain planning permission to build.
Another opposition idea is an ‘invest to earn’ scheme, which seeks to invest in assets to earn revenue, as opposed to selling them off.
Cllr Lynne Jones, leader of the local independents (Old Windsor), said that the way the budget is being framed is ‘spin’.
“All these cuts have nothing to do with COVID, these are decisions that were taken previously,” she said.
“The only strategy they’ve got at the moment is to build up their reserves because they’re still at a minimum.”
In response to Cllr Johnson’s call for alternative suggestions, she said: “There are no alterative suggestions.
“The situation is so bad, we are going down to statutory services and even those are being reduced.
“All this rhetoric about ‘give us options’ – there aren’t any,” she said.
“That’s not being transparent because they know there are no options.
“They can’t mislead the electorate like this.
“This was their chance – with a new leader, they said they wanted to be more transparent.”
W See p5 for the council leader’s view on the budget proposals.
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