05:24PM, Thursday 20 May 2021
Opposition councillors and the administration clashed during a discussion of District Enforcement at a council meeting on Tuesday – with an officer claiming to feel ‘ambushed’ by the questions.
In a meeting of Maidenhead Town Forum, attending councillors were expecting to be able to discuss the private company, which is contracted by the Royal Borough to police littering and other environmental misdemeanors.
However due to ‘some confusion’, the discussion was not what they were hoping for.
Instead of giving a presentation of District Enforcement’s activity in Maidenhead, Simon Dale, the head of service responsible for the contract, said that he was not in a position to give such a presentation.
Instead he gave verbal answers to some questions put forward by resident John Webb, centred on figures for number of fines issued and for what offences.
Windsor councillors attended the meeting of the Maidenhead Town Forum specifically to talk about this issue, which has been affecting residents and businesses across the borough.
Mr Dale said he has ‘never come across the amount of scrutiny’ as this pilot contract has had, having worked across multiple local authorities. He said there had already been five different sets of scrutiny regarding District Enforcement ‘asking the same questions.’
Mr Dale indicated that the best place to discuss District Enforcement in full was in an overview and scrutiny meeting, rather than a town forum.
The chair, Councillor David Coppinger (Con, Bray), attempted to move the meeting on shortly afterwards – causing a flurry of objections from opposition councillors.
Cllr John Baldwin (Lib Dem, Belmont) said: “We have two members of District Enforcement here, clearly your intention is not to allow us to question them.”
He added that he felt Mr Dale’s answers were ‘inadequate’.
“It is somewhat disingenuous to say you’ve addressed this issue several times before in different arenas, and yet you feel unprepared to answer our questions this evening,” he said.
“To come here tonight on the assumption that we’re just going to acquiescently pass strikes me as fabulously naïve.”
Cllr Gurch Singh (Lib Dem, St Mary’s) said:
“It seems to have been knocked off the agenda at the last minute. I came especially to discuss this issue – this is a really serious issue for my residents in St Mary’s.
“The whole point of the Maidenhead Town Forum is to have residents raise issues with companies and officers. We’re not going to make any decisions but we just want to have a fair conversation.”
Though Mr Dale agreed to a conversation to ‘ease the tension’, he said:
“To be honest, it feels like some sort of ambush. The amount of extra work we have been asked to do around this is disproportionate. It all feels ill-balanced.”
Cllr Baldwin wanted to know if there was any connection between District Enforcement and the companies Kingdom Service Group and Waste Investigations Support & Enforcement.
He asked if the Borough knew whether they had ever had to compete with each other for council contracts.
Mr Dale was unable to answer the question and Cllr Gerry Clark (Bisham, Cookham) raised concerns that the question was put forward as a ‘trap’.
“The questions tonight were predictable. It’s not a trap. It’s incredible the level of cynicism with which this agenda is being manipulated,” replied Cllr Baldwin
It was agreed that the council should return to the discussion about District Enforcement at a later date.