RBWM Cllrs voted through, at last week’s Full Council meeting, a motion to “undertake a community governance review examining the issue of whether a new town council for the currently unparished parts of Windsor should be formed.”
This will hopefully look at many aspects of governance and not simply be rushed through to garner votes for a Parliamentary election campaign.We need to get a better understanding of what the many pros and cons are.
The reality is that the Parish / Town is a stepping stone to the Borough, which then steps up to the Parliamentary Wards with the relevant committees, individuals making decisions of a range of subject matter under their control.
Borough councils can attract Parliamentary candidates looking to prove their worth. Parish Councils tend to be far less political and usually attract people who are simply interested in their local area.
Borough Councils cannot raise council tax by more than 3% without govt intervention or a local referendum.
Whereas Town & Parish Councils can raise money by increasing the precept, part of your council tax payment. In RBWM the highest precept for a Parish Council is £100.86, the lowest £32.23 with Windsor’s unparished precept currently standing at £34.57.
Motorways are built by the government with local councils looking after the local roads. Parish Councils don’t do highways but they can look after lighting if they choose to.
I recall talk of a single light in the centre of Osgood Park with an estimated cost of around £500,000 being put forward. If this was voted through by the RBWM then it would need to be shared by approx 60,000 homes. If it was just Windsor then that cost per household would essentially treble.
A few years ago the libraries were going to cull services until the public backlash forced the administration to find a magic money tree. The following year the administration, recognising they couldn’t raise Borough council tax to maintain these and other services, looked to the Parish Council to bail them out by adding costs to their “limitless” precept.
This might well be a useful power for Parish Councils if a Borough wide service is stopped to save money, a Parish Council can raise money and go out to tender for that services for just its residents.
Parking is always a hot topic. Old Windsor doesn’t charge for their own car parking spaces while we know RBWM have been looking to max these revenues.
Planning is controlled by the Borough officers with Cllrs voting on larger developments. Parish Councillors don’t have a vote on these developments but they can submit their thoughts and while technically they don’t carry extra weight any Borough Councillor worth their salt would not ignore what they have to say.
You might equate having a Town council to Brexit, where local power seems like a great idea but the practical realities of moving away at this time could have a higher than anticipated negative impact on local residents’ pockets.
Take The Guildhall. It’s a listed building so any provision for a disabled lift would prove very costly. Shared across RBWM it has not happened because of costs and so trebling the cost for local residents wouldn’t go down well.
The reality is that any Town Council can choose what it takes on from the Borough. It can leave lighting with RBWM. It can leave its building with RBWM. It can leave grass cutting with RBWM but it may choose to take this on and pick its own contractors. The list goes on.
The lesson that can be learnt from Brexit is that all that glitters isn’t gold and so all cost centres need to be explored thoroughly before any adverse risks are put on Windsor residents and the desire to completely break away from Maidenhead needs to be tempered with financial acumen.