10:41AM, Friday 18 December 2020
After the Royal Borough's draft budget for 2021/22 was approved by cabinet last night, the proposals will now go out to public consultation from Monday, meaning residents and businesses can have their say on the plans.
With the council needing to save millions to make up for past financial mismanagement and the economic costs of coronavirus, a number of cuts in key areas have been put forward.
Read below for analysis and reaction to six of the most significant cuts proposed in the draft.
Black bin collections
Weekly general waste collections are set to be axed, in favour of a fortnightly collection, under new draft budget proposals. This is expected to save £175,000 in 2021/2022.
Weekly recycling and food waste bin collections will continue as usual.
Nonetheless the proposal has evoked the ire of those who suffered missed bins when the borough only recently switched back to weekly collections.
It has brought back worries over queues at the dump, pest problems, odours, rubbish on the streets and increased fly-tipping – which all increased during the recent collection failures.
But some residents support the move, as they would see a greater commitment to recycling across the borough.
Responding to residents on social media, Councillor Ross McWilliams (Con, Cox Green) told residents that recycling rates have been ‘increasing dramatically' during COVID-19, hence there may be less need for weekly black bin collections.
Amjad Masri of Crown Lane is one of the residents whose bins were missed repeatedly and he is not happy about the changes.
“Even as a weekly collection, it's bad," he said. “I can't imagine how it's going to be as a fortnightly collection.“
"It's unbelievable. They're wasting money on many stupid things in my opinion - and on the most important things, they want to make cuts.”
Carole Bowman of Spinners Walk has also had problems with Serco missing collections and is concerned that going fortnightly might lead to even worse problems. “Can you imagine if they forget our bins for a month?” she said. “It’s disgraceful.”
Library opening times
Opening hours for libraries could be cut next year to save money.
Although it is not yet clear how much the services will be affected, the proposals state that £118,000 would be made in savings.
Council leader Andrew Johnson (Con, Hurley and Walthams) stated that the extent of the closures would be determined following a public consultation, but also looked ahead at how library services could be altered over the coming years.
He said: “What we would like to do is look at where we’ve had success during the COVID period such as click and collect services and see if we can embed that into the service.
“This will make sure it continues to cater for those people that value it at the moment but also becomes relevant to an entirely new generation that might not necessarily view libraries in the same way that many of us currently do.
“In terms of transformation, I think we will answer the question ‘what do the libraries of the future look like and where will they be located?’ But all of that is a piece of work to come in future years.”
Car parking meters
Parking meters for drivers looking to pay by cash will still be available but they ‘may not be as convenient’ as the council looks to save £50,000.
The Royal Borough’s draft budget outlines how the authority wants to make the saving by removing ‘the majority’ of ‘outdated’ on-street pay-and-display parking machines.
Payment will move mostly to the Ringo app and phone line, but this has sparked worries that people unfamiliar with technology may struggle to pay for parking.
The council says that ‘a machine will be retained in each of the parking areas for those without access to Ringo’.
When asked to clarify this, the council’s lead member for parking, Cllr David Cannon (Con, Datchet, Horton and Wraysbury), said: “There will be three options. You can pay by cash at the nearest meter – it may not be as convenient but it is still available; over the phone, or by the mobile.”
Arts funding for Norden Farm and The Old Court
Arts centres and museums in the Royal Borough including Norden Farm and The Old Court stand to lose funding in the draft budget.
Although the exact figures are not yet clear, the arts and cultural centres of Windsor and Maidenhead could face cuts to their budgets as the proposals stand.
Council leader Andrew Johnson (Con, Hurley and Walthams) said he hopes to move the arts centres onto a new kind of financial model.
He said: “We’re certainly not getting rid of all the funding for Norden Farm and The Old Court.
“We are in a discussion with both organisations around what funding package we can put in place next year, but given the constraints on the council’s own budget, it certainly won’t be a like for like for what they’ve had this year I’m afraid.
“What we’re keen to do is work with both of them to get into a long-term position where they’re financially self-sufficient without support from the local authority and I say that because that support may not be guaranteed in future years.”
On museums, he added: “We will be supporting them but making sure that when we emerge from the pandemic, they remain both relevant and attractive. There’s a lot of service reconfiguration to be done in some of these areas.”
The Royal Borough is seeking to ‘restructure’ community safety programmes to save around £300,000. This will affect community wardens.
The wardens support the police in a variety of ways, such as intervening when people are drinking on streets where it is banned, or helping to disperse groups meeting illegally under COVID-restrictions.
They also get involved in other projects around antisocial behaviour, such as antisocial parking around schools.
Some wardens will remain, and will be focused on ‘hot spot’ areas.
In the draft, the council wrote: “The service leader has left and there is a further need to reshape the management.”
Flowers around the borough
The council’s lead member for climate change and sustainability has admitted the borough will look less colourful as the draft budget seeks to save more than £80,000 by removing several planters.
The containers are home to new flowers every year but Councillor Donna Stimson (Con, St Mary’s) has called them a ‘luxury’ that the council has to sacrifice.
All of the containers will be put into storage and by removing them, the council is set to save £86,000.
The Royal Borough has committed to a 2050 carbon neutral target and its climate strategy was adopted at cabinet yesterday (Thursday).
When asked how this would affect the borough’s climate plans, Cllr Stimson said: “We are not going to be hitting our climate change target by simply filling some troughs with flowers.
“We are going to be doing it by planting swathes of trees; updating our planning strategy and making our homes more efficient.
“It will have an impact on the colour, but actually in terms of biodiversity they are not going to make much of a difference.”