Cllr Neil Knowles, Independent – Old Windsor Residents’ Association, was confirmed as the new Mayor of the Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead this evening.
We had coffee yesterday afternoon and talked about how he’d like to have a positive impact over the next year. I asked him for 3 ways his term would be different.
“Firstly, I’d like to demystify how the council works and change the ethos. I’d like to see more residents seriously consider standing for council because they appreciate how they could have a positive impact on their community.
Second, I know it’s been very tough for small businesses and I’d encourage SMEs to make contact if I can help shine a light on their business to help in some way.
Third, I’ve worked in media for years and so am hoping the RBWM Comms team will be able to facilitate some ideas I have for educating the public while making the most of the Mayoral role to get eyeballs on Windsor & Maidenhead.”
How will you be chairing the Full Council differently?
“Cllr John Story, as Mayor, was an excellent chair of Full Council. He was even handed and fair, allowing meetings to flow and would explain constitutional items as he felt necessary for the benefit of the public attending the meeting.
If a Cllr is making a good point dealing with the reality of today, not the nuances of a bye-gone era, then I’ll not cut them off in their prime but allow the debate to flow.
I’d like to see Cllrs keeping to the facts, adding value to the debate and not get lost in storytelling. Debates need to be balanced, based on facts not fiction and keep moving forward so good decisions are made.”
When Neil and I first became Cllrs the administration enjoyed watching us make procedural errors during debate. I also remember making sure I had my 5 minutes on each topic in the naive belief that I would actually change the way the Tories might vote! Latterly I focused on making my points as succinctly as possible, mainly for residents listening in.
Neil is hoping to introduce a practice run and explain the process to new Cllrs so they hit the ground running. It will take time for Cllrs to become familiar with the process, however good the training but adding that step will be of benefit to all, officers and Cllrs alike.
“As Mayor, Full Council is my meeting and so I plan on knowing the constitution inside out, I am currently committing it to memory and I plan on being as prepared as possible for my first Full Council meeting.”
How can SMEs make contact?
“If they email firstname.lastname@example.org and explain what it is they would like me to do then if constitutionally sound for me to do so, I will do what I can to help them. SME businesses are the lifeblood of any community and they are not out of the woods yet (after covid) and need all the support we can give. We don’t have a pot of money but we do have a media profile and so I see it as my duty to help where I can.”
How might you use Media Channels to help with the Mayoral role?
“We need to restore public confidence in the council and you don’t do that by making decisions in private. We need to be more open and transparent, demystify the process, educate, be less adversarial, talk about facts not fiction and at the end of the day talk things through while retaining our independence of thought so that we make some great decisions.
How much I am allowed to do as Mayor is governed by RBWM and so it will have to be discussed and evolve within the constitution but I will be discussing our approach with the Comms team and hopefully opening up some new channels.”
Best of luck Mr Mayor, I’m sad not to be part of the team but just let me know how I can help.