Following steps taken by local residents and WWRA Councillors, RBWM finally agreed to start a governance review which will hopefully result in the creation of a Windsor Town Council. Here is Cllr Wisdom Da Costa’s speech.
On 21 July 2019, supported by residents of every political persuasion, and some with none at all, a group of residents led by Richard Endacott, Andre Walker and, Cllr Wisdom Da Costa launched a petition to restore a deeper level of democracy to Windsor after an absence of 50 years.
On Tuesday 28 July, a debate was held during an RBWM Council to discuss the proposals to begin a governance review that we hope will lead to the formation of a Windsor Town Council.
Cllr Wisdom Da Costa called for the governance review to begin and a Windsor Town Council be set up quickly, to “bring accountability back to people” and to “address this inequality of democracy” which sees Windsor as the sole entire town without a Council led by local people.
Here’s what Cllr Wisdom Da Costa said.
I am honoured to be present here before you today to speak wholeheartedly in favour of the motion to set up a governance review with the ambition to create a Windsor Town Council.
This campaign has been led by a steering group of local residents from across the whole town from the Town Centre, to ancient boroughs of Clewer, Dedworth and Spital, all united by a common ambition to bring more localised representation to our historic town.
Town or parish councils are the tier of local government that are closest to the electorate, the people we represent. In total there are some 10, 000 parish or town councils in England alone.
Windsor has a proud history of local representation since 1172 when a council was formed to discuss matters arising between the town and the crown, this representative body stood in various forms until the Local Government Act of 1972. This act replaced Cookham Rural District Council, Eton Urban District Council, Eton Rural District Council, Maidenhead Borough Council, New Windsor Borough Council and Windsor Rural District Council. Of the many towns within RBWM, now only central Maidenhead and the whole of Windsor are left without town or parish representation. We must address this inequality of democracy.
The powers of Parish and town councils are generally concurrent with those of the primary council, in this case RBWM, though most lack the capacity to undertake the provision of public services and therefore concern themselves with local environmental, community and amenity issues. In 2018 the National Association of Local Councils submitted a report entitled Points of Light which should this motion be successful, I suggest all members of the governance review committee familiarise themselves with, as it highlights the work Parish and Town councils have undertaken.
There are some 270 more parish and town councils than in 2005, supported by the current Conservative Government and the preceding coalition and Labour Governments. Including town councils established in Weymouth and Christchurch in 2019. The coalition Governments consultation paper said “We believe localism is best achieved when it is led by local communities themselves, we see town and parish councils as playing a vital role in helping local people make this happen”
The challenge of course when discussing a new council is the issue of funding. As we know there are 32000 residents in Windsor, each paying a levy called a parish precept, despite having no such representation of where this money is spent. The current levy is on average £36 a year for a Band D property, which amounts to a total of circa £650, 000 which should be earmarked for the town, however goes into the central pot, with no tracking of how this money is spent.
Then off course there is also the extra income, often in the hundreds of thousands of pounds, by way of S106 and CIL contributions from building developments in the town, which should be spent on Windsor, but which are lost to our non-parished areas.
Of course when setting up a town council there are running costs, such as the provision of a town clerk and other operational costs, these need to be mitigated against the income streams to ensure the viability of the project.
The proposed Governance Review committee should liaise with the Windsor Town Council steering group to understand in more detail their plans for generating increased revenue streams through the formation of a Town Guild to run alongside the Town Council, generating funds for local charities in addition to supporting the local ambitions of residents and businesses.
The aims of the Windsor Town Council is to dovetail alongside RBWM to relieve the burden on the primary authority and to provide services and representation to support local people.
In all of this the governance review committee will play an integral part in ensuring that the outcomes benefit residents across the Royal Borough not just in Windsor. Therefore there are some areas they may want to consider:
- To familiarise themselves with the national guidance, so they can engage with their principal authority with an understanding of the process it must follow and the criteria that should inform its decisions;
- To reciprocate a working relationship with all impacted ward Councillors during a review.
- To produce a definitive list of groups to be consulted, from across Windsor, including neighbourhood planning, residents associations, the chamber of commerce, historical societies, cultural and religious groups, sporting organisations and charitable groups;
- To involve the National Association of Local Councils (NALC) and the County Association of Local Councils (CALC), for advice and guidance on the process. This might also support any arising perishing or boundary issues such as the claim by the residents West of Ruddlesway and Tinkers Lane who are currently in the Bray Parish area and may wish to be considered to be part of the Windsor Town Council area.
- To consider a shadow town council group to be formed ahead of possible elections, or to enable early elections with a shortened term, to allow for a bedding down process. In 1972 the new arrangements were implemented a year ahead of the implementation.
To conclude therefore, we have an opportunity here to really engage the local community as If I may paraphrase Bob Neill MP for Bromley and Chislehurst, “There is a real opportunity for (residents and) councillors to have far more fulfilling, rewarding roles; exercising genuine choice and power; changing the face of their neighbourhoods and making a difference to people’s lives. This sets the scene for the most radical shake up of power there has been for a generation. Be as ambitious as you can. Be as radical as you like. Be as bold as you want. From now on accountability is to the people”.
I therefore support the motion and urge all of you with local democracy at the heart of your work to follow suit and bring accountability back to people.
Here’s the entire debate
Cllr Wisdom Da Costa
- This post is part of the WWRA Councillors regular series of Blogs to inform and empower local residents; as promised in their 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 email@example.com