Blog: Concerns about the RBWM Highways Transport and Environment Budget for 2019/20 including increases in car parking fees

What proposals have been included in the RBWM Highways Transport and Environment Budget for 2019/20? Cllr Da Costa sets out some worrying concerns.


The RBWM’s 2019/20 Budget is a complicated item covering the many, many areas of  Council services and responsibility, balanced by the increases in costs, and changing income streams.

Various parts of the proposals are currently being presented to individual Overview and Scrutiny Panel (OSP) for comments and/or rubber stamping before being voted upon at the Council meeting on 26 February 2019 including,

  • Adult Services and Health Overview and Scrutiny Panel
  • Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Panel
  • Corporate Services Overview and Scrutiny Panel
  • Crime & Disorder Overview & Scrutiny Panel
  • Culture and Communities Overview and Scrutiny Panel
  • Highways, Transport and Environment Overview and Scrutiny Panel
  • Joint Corporate Services and Culture & Communities Overview and Scrutiny Panel
  • Planning & Housing Overview & Scrutiny Panel

NB You can find a copy of the full document for 2019/20, including the RBWM Highways Transport and Environment Budget as it currently stands at RBWM Highways Transport and Environment Budget PDF

Concerns about the RBWM Highways Transport and Environment Budget for 2019/20

I have reviewed the aspects relating to the Highways, Transport and Environment OSP that I sit on and, have made the following comments;

  1. Each of the service areas only contain three figures for income, costs and, net costs, without a breakdown of how the income and costs are made up in detail which would allow you to compare the ranges of services, contracts and costs for each service (e.g. refuse collection which can be broken down into the basic services, additional services, penalties, charges, waste disposal costs, temporary labour, equipment costs etc..). Presenting such detail would allow Councillors the ability to recognise where things have not gone right and ask for what is being done to improve in each of these areas. Without such detail, perhaps you could compare it to DRIVING IN WINTER WITH ALL YOUR WINDOWS ICED OVER.
  2. Despite my request for the detail to allow me to understand and question services to the level of detail that you and I would expect, NO SUCH DETAIL HAS BEEN MADE AVAILABLE TO COUNCILLORS
  3. Of the little that is disclosed, I can say that since the unexpected and terrible drop in usage of car parks across the Borough as a whole in 2018/19, the Administration has chosen to increase car park charges by around 19% for non-advantage card holders; that includes some residents and out of towners coming in to visit and shop. But hold on a second, could increased costs result in a further drop in car park useage? Might this FURTHER THREATEN THE VIABILITY OF OUR BUSINESSES AND HIGH STREETS, which are already under pressure, possibly resulting in our retail centres becoming ghost towns? The answer seems to be, “no information available” but the massively increased charges do make the Budget balance! That is a worry for me as we try to re-invigorate our communities, town centres, businesses and employment opportunities and, a possible black hole in our Budget. What do you think?
  4. What are we not being shown? Lots of things, for example, a area key for many residents is that of checking roads to ensure they are repaired to the standard requested of the subcontractor so that money is NOT  paid over for sub-standard work which then needs to be re-repaired at further cost? Or work is not done or paid for twice? Or building work is checked to ensure that if roads and pavements are damaged, that the contractor is fined and the damage or substandard work is rectified at the contractors cost? Do we need to Budget for more Inspectors and also get more income from fines? NO INFORMATION WAS PROVIDED
  5. What effect will Brexit have on the ability of our many contractors to be able to do the work? NO INFORMATION WAS PROVIDED?
  6. Before I am criticised by a certain other Councillor in the area, there is £180K in the Budget for the deeply unpopular “Dedworth Road/Hatch Lane/Parsonage Lane Improvements”

How would you vote?

Honestly, would you vote for such a Budget, with all it’s areas of deep uncertainty, and a lack of appropriate information, based on the proposal for £180K of “Dedworth Road/Hatch Lane/Parsonage Lane Improvements”?

 

How did I vote?

Given my concerns about the lack of information, which I voiced, I could only abstain from approving the “Highways, Transport and Environment” part of the Budget.

I expect that all the other areas of service and costs and income noted above also lack clarity though, I do not sit on any other OSP at this time.

 

On the plus side

I am pleased to note that all of my proposals for deeper scrutiny have finally been accepted by the new, and very good Chair, Cllr E Quick, though in slightly modified form

Here are the original proposals which will be slightly modified to encompass a Borough wide policy flavour – more news to follow;

  • Buses: Public engagement (Task & Finish group with bus cos, RBWM & public) to create routes, frequencies and services relevant to residents needs including: o Service 2 – Dedworth, Windsor, Slough o Service 10/11 – Slough, Datchet, Sunnymedes, Wraysbury & Heathrow o Service – 15 Slough and Eton Wich (Wick?) o Service 702
  • Street lighting; implementation review
  • location and coverage of lights to enhance CCTV and improve security of residents Road maintenance: areas failing or soon expected to fail reasonable standards, needing prioritised attention
  • Council waste; recycling own waste (e.g. coffee cups)

More information at RBWM Highways Transport and Environment Budget PDF

What areas do you think the Council’s Highways, Transport and Environment OSP should review and report on (and improve) in the coming year?

Email me cllr.dacosta@rbwm.gov.uk – I want to hear what you think.

Accountably yours,

Wisdom

WWRA Councillor, Wisdom Da Costa, Clewer North, Windsor

Email me at cllr.dacosta@rbwm.gov.uk

 

Caveat

  • This post is part of Cllr Wisdom Da Costa’s regular series of Blogs to inform and empower local residents; as he promised in his election leaflet
  • It is also to comply with clause v of the Members Code of Conduct which states, “You must be as open as possible about your decisions and actions and the decisions and actions of your authority and should be prepared to give reasons for those decisions and actions.”
  • The views expressed in this article are not necessarily the views of the West Windsor Residents Association (WWRA).
  • Any errors are unintentional so, I would value you bringing them to my intention so I can correct them. You can Email me cllr.dacosta@rbwm.gov.uk