Opposition fury over Royal Borough budget proposals

George Roberts

Opposition figures at the council have reacted with fury over the proposed 2020/21 budget.

Parking discounts for Advantage Card holders could be scrapped, children’s services overhauled and the number of community wardens could be reduced as part of the council’s latest budget savings.

With an overspend of £3.7million projected for this financial year, a draft budget intended to provide nearly £6million in savings has been produced.

Cllr Lynne Jones (Ind, Old Windsor) accused the council of installing ‘stealth taxes’ but said she was not surprised.

She said: “Residents should be absolutely furious at the way the Conservative administration over the last eight years has managed its finances.

“Years ago we should have been looking at how we could generate revenue, at what we could invest in, but we have just been selling off all our assets.”

Cllr Simon Werner (Lib Dem, Pinkneys Green) was equally dismayed by the budget proposals.

Referring to the scrapping of the Advantage Card discount, which the council has predicted will save £650,000 next year, he said: “They are not going to get the revenue they expected because less people will go out to Maidenhead and Windsor. It’s another nail in the coffin for Maidenhead town centre.”

On the cut in the number of community wardens in the area – something Cllr Werner introduced when the Lib Dems were in power –  he said: “The reason we had the wardens in the first place was the town centre was looked after by police but the residential areas were ignored and the wardens filled the gap.

“Now they are reducing the number of wardens, all these suburban areas are getting stuffed.”

Speaking to the Advertiser on Monday, ahead of the draft's release, Cllr Andrew Johnson (Con, Hurley and Walthams), the council leader, said: “We are spending more to save more.

“There will be some difficult decisions to make, I can’t shirk responsibility, but overall we are looking to steer the council into a stable position.”

On the loss of the Advantage Card car parking discount for Royal Borough residents, he said: “Our ambition is to run a low tax council but make sure if people use our services then they pay for that. You can’t have both.”

He added that the move was also partly to encourage residents to use cars less as the council looks to make the borough more sustainable.

Cllr Johnson stated that the council is looking to provide services ‘to those most in need’ rather than offering them universally.

He added: “What we have really sought to do is ensure that, next year and the year after, we have a realistic and robust budget, and hopefully there will be a little bit of underspend so we can put a little bit back in the reserves.”

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