'Residents paying more for less' in draft Royal Borough budget, meeting hears

The council was accused of forcing residents to ‘pay more for less’ as councillors pored over the Royal Borough’s proposed 2021/22 budget at a meeting this week.

A communities overview and scrutiny panel heard from public speaker Richard Endacott, from Windsor, who urged councillors to ‘look at the impact behind the numbers’ as the council seeks to save £8million in its new budget.

Mr Endacott added that the borough’s decision to ‘restructure’ community wardens would have a ‘detrimental’ impact on communities, while fellow public speaker Andrew Hill questioned why the council was axing the SMILE programme, which helps the elderly with exercise.

The Royal Borough hopes to save more than £300,000 through these two budget alterations.

Speaking at Monday’s meeting, Mr Endacott said: “We as residents understand that dramatic cuts need to be made to our services.

“But I am concerned that residents are paying more for less and I think that as a councillor you need to look at the impact behind the numbers, on individual people.”

Mr Hill added: “When you propose to cut the mere £70,000 it appears to cost [for SMILE], might you not reap hundreds of thousands of pounds of knock-on problems, and maybe more health problems if the elderly have less access to affordable fitness activities?”

Mr Hill also accused the budget of being ‘quite vague, opaque and confusing’, adding: “How it is that we can’t even afford to pay for flowers in the town centre, and we need £8million of savage cuts, but we can apparently still afford to offer lawyers and consultants more money?”

A series of lead Conservative members responded to budget cuts standing in their name later in the meeting, with Cllr David Cannon (Con, Datchet, Horton and Wraysbury), lead member for public protection, explaining that it is ‘not a removal’ of the community wardens service, but ‘it is a reduction’.

He added: “This is a proposal. It is not a decision. And all views are welcome.”

Referencing stopping the planting of flowers in Royal Borough town centres, Cllr Donna Stimson (Con, St Mary’s), lead member for climate change, said: “While it is wonderful to have the flowers in the towns, lots of these are annuals which don’t add to biodiversity, they are simply very pretty.”

Cllr Stimson added that the council needed to look at its ‘statutory commitments’, claiming the budget ‘was not an easy decision to make’ and hoped to re-plant the plants when the council is able.

Adele Taylor, the council’s senior finance officer, said budget discussions were ‘live’.

“These are draft proposals. Between now and the time of setting the budget, if there were any alterations, there would still be an opportunity to do so, and that’s why we’re encouraging people to engage with us,” she said.

The 2021/22 budget is out for public consultation until Friday, January 29 and will be discussed at cabinet and full council on February 4 and February 23 respectively.

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