Feel free to email me with your thoughts after reading this blog about my concerns and observations relating to the RBWM Budget 2021/22…
Next year’s budget is looking to save / cut just shy of £6m.
It will be discussed at this week’s Cabinet meeting when hopefully they will bring forward a few tweaks based on ideas submitted by the public and the opposition.
And then at full council at the end of the month… agenda coming soon…
You can watch both on the RBWM Youtube Channel
The main problem is that we just don’t have enough income. Looking at circa £80m next year from residential council tax. It would have been, had the Tories increased it in line with Government maximums in years gone by, nearer £100m.
We now find ourselves in a position where reserves are very low and any local major incident, like a flood, could wipe them out!
This precarious position will not be fixed properly, in my opinion, by a 4.99% increase generating £3.775m.
There is only one solution which the ruling party are fully aware of… they need to call a referendum and ask residents if they would be willing to have a bigger increase.
Obviously there will be many who will say, “NO, why should I pay more, I don’t want to pay more, I don’t use any of the services but I will expect the council to drop everything and help me when I need it!”
Hopefully more will say, “YES, how much do we need to run our community properly and have all the relevant services in place? Happy to pay my fair share.”
This is a treading water budget which is a repeat of the denial the Conservatives have been in for years. They need to pull their socks up and grow some. I anticipate they will have to call for a referendum in the summer.
Let’s look at my key concerns and observations…
Community Wardens are top of the list
- Cutting £300k.
- I wrote to the Lead Member with an idea which would allow them to keep the existing wardens and bring the District Environmental Crime Officers in house to generate the revenues needed for future years.
Black bin collections
- Cutting £175k.
- If we are looking to a greener future then this is logical.
- My family and I lived in Devon for 2 years and the bin was half the size and emptied every two weeks. We chose to move there, so had to work very hard on our recycling skills.
- The stats for the last six months show that residents are producing 20% less black bin waste and 25% less recycling, than last year, because their worlds’ have changed. Download Item 5, see page 9.
- RBWM saw a perfect recycling learning opportunity for residents, during the summer, wasted because of a poorly timed, unnecessary petition.
- Much of what goes in the black bin could be recycled but why bother when there is such a big bin to fill each week!
- We have a commitment to zero carbon by 2050 and so need to get with the programme as other councils across the country have.
Parking Rural Car Parks – Pirate Park
- Vision is to make £6k from charges.
- First 30 mins free, then £1 an hour for next 2 hours, over 2 hours is £5.
- I’ve written to the Lead Member suggesting that we only charge for 3 hours or more to allow people to walk dogs, play in the pirate park and enjoy a competitive game of football.
- The libraries obviously have to look to the needs of the future which they are doing very well.
- They also need to perform their historic function of helping older residents find the relevant information, including relating to council activities.
- To constantly reduce opening hours needs to stop.
- We have to also stop forcing older people to use technology that they don’t care for. Many residents want to deal with people and paper not robots. Their needs need to be respected.
- It’s not about the ability to buy a computer, it’s about being happy living without one and being more tuned in to the world around you.
Discounted Parking for Locals
- Parking revenues are expected to be down circa £3m.
- Seems crazy that when the community is struggling financially that we are looking to max revenues from parking instead of absorbing the cost to encourage locals to shop in town! (COVID rules permitting)
- The budget talks of “extra height poles” being charged at £15k.
- I have asked senior officers and the Lead Member for Finance how much we have charged telcos this last year for the 14+ 5G masts that have been given the all clear across RBWM.
River Thames Flood Prevention
- It’s a shame we didn’t join the other councils to fund a proper scheme.
RBWM Affordable Housing Scheme
- £4.49m this year, £11.5m in total.
- I have asked the Lead Member for more info on this as all I can find is a 28th June 2016 Planning & Housing Overview & Scrutiny Panel where RBWM seem to be buying properties and giving them to the Property Company, a separate legal entity? More clarity is needed.
The world is changing around us and we need to change the way we do things but we need to take the residents with us by explaining the reasons for changes.
We need to be making decisions, not on “the way it has always been” but on what is right for our community & environment in the longer term, as failure to start moving in a greener direction will have its consequences.
While we have to have a good rapport with the Government, to ensure our fair share of funding, we should not allow them to control all our decisions. They see electric cars as the future, I don’t and more research and discussion needs to be had around alternatives.
We need RBWM to move to grown up, robust debate based on facts and the needs of our residents and local businesses to be the foundations for our decision making in RBWM.
If you have views you’d like to share please email firstname.lastname@example.org
I went looking for a red briefcase and found this one, made me smile 😉