Viewpoint: The Royal Borough budget and the future of Maidenhead

Featuring discussion on the savings proposed in the draft Royal Borough budget, the recent death of former councillor Adam Smith and the future of Maidenhead.

Staff reporter

Staff reporter

Viewpoint: The Royal Borough budget and the future of Maidenhead

Council cuts will hit the most vulnerable residents

Finally RBWM Tories have been forced to reveal the truth regarding the financial incompetence of the last eight years.

To attempt to fill the nearly £12m black hole, they are looking to make sweeping cuts to services that will impact all residents and particularly our most vulnerable.

The suggested proposals include:

  • Remove the parking discount for RBWM residents;
  • Cut the number of community wardens;
  • Charging upwards of £50 per parking permit and charge for visitor permits;
  • Cut youth and early years services;
  • Cut grants including The Old Court and Norden Farm;
  • Cut council tax discount for the working vulnerable;
  • Cut library opening times;
  • Cut all non statutory services such as GROW & STRIVE that help residents.

The officer core has been hollowed out and there are huge gaps in skill set and experience to physically run the council.

The opposition raised their concerns that the finances were not sustainable or resilient but were lectured time and time again about ‘the council’s innovative and prudent management’, and how ‘the council entered these challenging few years with finances fit for purpose’.

Less than two years ago we were being told that parking charges for residents would not rise, parking permits would continue to be free, libraries would be open longer, numbers of community wardens would be increased and the pension fund deficit would be repaid.

We were told that we had an ‘excellent level of reserves’ that would cover all eventualities.

This has taken place to facilitate sound-bites around ‘lowest council tax’ and photos of smug, smiling Conservative councillors outside the town hall, with the obligatory banners.

Was it the incompetence of the Tories, who voted these budgets through without challenge ... or was it political expediency to ensure they kept their seats for another term by misleading residents so badly?

Cllr LYNNE JONES

Leader of the Local Independents


Ruling Conservatives won’t fool voters again

Removing the Advantage Card parking discount will be another reason for local people to go to Reading or Wycombe for their shopping.

With so much regeneration going on in Maidenhead, we want to try and attract as many shoppers as possible, not drive them away with more expensive parking.

As recently as May, Conservative leaders boasted about having free resident parking permits but now, residents who signed up to schemes thinking they would be free are now going to be lumbered with a charge of at least £50 just to park outside their own home, and their visitors will need to pay as well.

The Conservatives even attempted to discredit the Lib Dems in the run-up to the local election on the subject of parking permits, by pointing to a Lib Dem-run council elsewhere that was looking to put up charges. It’s fair to say that’s a message that didn’t age well.

They are also planning to cut bus subsidies. With a climate emergency being at the top of everybody’s agenda, we should be encouraging people to get out of their cars and onto reliable, affordable and frequent public transport.

If this move means a cut in bus services in the borough, then it will be the fault of nobody but the Conservatives.

The Lib Dems brought in the community wardens when we ran the council to help keep our residents safe and be a physical presence in our communities, and despite a Conservative election pledge to have at least 25 community wardens working across the Borough (36 in 2015), they plan to cut their number, making it more difficult for them to do their jobs effectively.

With community budgets tighter than ever, we are privileged in the borough to have facilities such as Norden Farm and The Old Court, but the Conservatives have reduced the grants helping these organisations operate. Now they are going to cut their funding more.

For years, the Lib Dems in Windsor and Maidenhead have campaigned for a fair budget and to start to balance the books, only to be refused access to certain papers, accused of scaremongering and told we just need to trust the Conservatives.

We can now see the truth: finances at breaking point, key services being cut back to the bone, town centres being made less accessible and community facilities facing the risk of closure due to cuts in their funding.

Now, the Conservative group are probably taking some solace in the fact that they won’t face an election for another 3.5 years.

No doubt, when the 2023 election comes around, they’ll put up some banners, hoping that the electorate will be fooled into seeing them as a safe pair of hands.

The people of Windsor and Maidenhead are more sophisticated than that though – they won’t forget what happened the last time they put their trust in the Conservatives.

Cllr JOSHUA REYNOLDS

Lib Dem, Furze Platt


Remembering a brave, honest, true gentleman

I was deeply saddened by the news of Adam Smith’s death recently.

It was not unexpected – many of us in the Riverside knew he was very ill but it was still a shock.

Adam was our Riverside ward councillor for several years until May 2019.

It was in his role as a councillor that I first met him. He was a familiar figure cycling round the neighbourhood and he was always closely involved in the community.

When the Boulters Lock car park was threatened by development, it was Adam who joined local residents in opposing the development plans, despite putting himself in opposition to his council leader at the time.

Adam collected detailed data on the car park use and it was this data that almost certainly convinced the planning panel to deny planning approval. When it went to planning appeal, Adam again joined the Boulters Riverside Community Interest Company and our legal team in opposing the appeal, which was rejected.

He was delighted with the outcome.

After meeting and working with Adam as a ward councillor I was happy to develop a friendship with him.

As his illness took hold he shared his diagnosis with me over 18 months ago, explaining this was why he would not be standing again for election.

He was remarkably relaxed about his diagnosis – his only concern was for others and, in particular, his family.

Our sincere condolences go out to them at this sad time.

Adam was brave, honest and a true gentleman; he will be sadly missed by all of us in the Riverside.

MG (MICK) JARVIS

Chairman, Boulters Riverside CIC


Flats will not bring prosperity to the town

Thursday’s edition (January 16) of the Advertiser contained several articles relating to the future ‘vision’ of the town, and included the comment from Cllr Coppinger who stated that ‘the line (Elizabeth) would coincide nicely with the regeneration in Maidenhead’.

The regeneration of Maidenhead has been proposed ever since I moved here, having lived in the area for over 30 years, and the Elizabeth Line is at least four years behind schedule but will still happen before the Landing and Nicholsons Centre refurbishment are completed.

The ‘bulk of the new property’ the councillor is talking about will be mostly flats, which will not bring prosperity to the town. Those in the new properties will work away from Maidenhead and will play where they work; there will be nothing to encourage them to be in this town.

Had you wanted to come to Maidenhead to shop this weekend, along with the closure of the M4, Shoppenhangers Road is closed, there are traffic lights in Grenfell Road, Oldfield Road (Friday) and in Cookham Road.

I shop in Taplow and eat in Marlow.

My wife shops in Reading, a 15-minute train journey.

My Advantage Card does not work in Hines Meadow car park and, three months after making enquiries with the Royal Borough, I have no answer.

At Taplow I can park some 25 metres away from the front door of Sainsbury’s, the trolleys are free and I do not have to negotiate a travelator with any trolley.

In Marlow I can choose between The Botanist, Bills, Cote Brasserie, The Coach, The Hand and Flowers, The Ivy, Prezzo (purely alphabetical order sorry for any I omitted!). How many Michelin-stared restaurants does Maidenhead possess, or any major chain now that Prezzo has left? (Bray does not count and Roux is technically not in Maidenhead, before anyone shouts!).

Like most councillors, Mr David Coppinger, you are living in an ivory tower and you need to get into the real world.

Two letters were delivered, by hand, to your illustrious leader at the town hall just after Boxing Day and neither has even been acknowledged!

It is likely to be five years before the Landing is fully operational and similarly with the Nicholsons Centre.

The Braywick Gate redevelopment will give a seven-storey office block at the southern entrance to the town.

Do we want to become like Slough?

I am not a betting man but I would wager, David Coppinger, that the Elizabeth Line trains are running before either the Nicholsons Centre or the Landing are fully operational.

Maybe I should wager my council tax for year 2022-23?

MERVYN BUSTON

East Road

Maidenhead


What has happened to annual toad migration?

I view with dismay the grubbing up of the last section of undisturbed undergrowth on the lake side of Ray Mill Road East.

I can remember when we helped bucket- loads of toads move across the road to their mating location.

During the spring in 2019 I did not see one toad either managing to cross the road alive or squashed at the side of the road.

Apart from the clearing of the undergrowth I note that several of the houses on the lake side of the road have built impenetrable fences at the boundary of their properties: zero chance of any toads or hedgehogs passing through their gardens.

Has Maidenhead given up on providing some habitat for these reptiles?

My understanding is Berkshire East provided one of the last remaining havens for the common toad; seems I was misinformed!

JANE SHIRE

Frances Avenue

Maidenhead

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