Local Lib Dems are delighted that there is now an opportunity to open up Wokingham Borough Council’s decision making process so that all councillors might in future have more involvement in decisions.
Leader of the local Lib Dems, Prue Bray, proposed that the Council look at how it might change its decision-making process, and this was supported by the Conservatives. If the review agrees that a committee based system could replace the current 10-member Executive, then all 54 councillors would become more involved.
Cllr Prue Bray said “This is a great opportunity to make sure that residents’ views from across the Borough are better represented when the Council makes decisions. If this had been in place, then some past poor decisions such as the green waste scheme and closing public toilets might have been different. I am glad there was cross-party support for this Lib Dem suggestion. The Council has now committed to look at this, and I am looking forward to working with all political groups to deliver the best system possible for residents. Anything that improves local democracy and gets more people involved is a good thing for Wokingham Borough.”
1/ The Labour government forced councils to bring in an Executive and Scrutiny system to replace the previous committees. This was changed by the localism act and councils are now free to chose how they want to set up their decision making process.
2/ Councils which have already moved back to the committee system include Sutton, Notts County Council and South Gloucestershire.
3/ Some small district councils were exempt from the Executive system and have retained committees.
4/ At the council meeting on 19th July, Cllr Prue Bray proposed the motion: “Under the Localism Act 2011, local authorities gained the freedom to determine for themselves whether to operate an executive system, a committee system, or other agreed governance arrangements. This Council wishes to consider what the most appropriate governance system is for Wokingham, and therefore refers this matter for investigation to the Overview & Scrutiny Management Committee to determine who manages the investigation, with a report on options for changing Wokingham’s existing governance arrangements to be received and debated at a future meeting of the full Council.”
At the Council meeting on 19th July, the Conservatives painted a rose tinted picture of the waste collection service. The Lib Dems know that in fact there are a lot of people out there who are still not happy with it. But yet again the Conservatives rejected a Lib Dem request to rethink the green waste charges.
The Lib Dems also know that there are a lot of community minded people who help their neighbours with their gardens and collect leaves from council owned trees. Cllr Beth Rowland said, “Under the current scheme these people have to pay the full rates for bags and bins. It doesn’t seem right that people should be made to pay for being community minded. But last night the Conservatives refused to consider any concessions for them. The Lib Dems are listening to local residents and will continue to push for the changes to the Green Waste Scheme that residents are asking for.”
At the council meeting, Cllr Prue Bray asked: “In January the Conservatives rejected a Lib Dem motion asking you to rethink the green waste scheme. Will you now listen to residents who are saying the green waste scheme is too expensive and is unfair to those on low incomes and agree to a rethink?”
Also at the council meeting, Cllr Beth Rowland asked: “Will you extend the Adopt a Street/Green Space litter policy so that residents who collect green waste such as leaves from council-owned trees or who help elderly neighbours with garden maintenance can be provided with additional bins or bags? “
Following a question from the Lib Dem group of councillors to the Executive last night, it emerged that the decision on the future of the library service will now be made in November.
Residents have made their worries about Council plans for the Library service perfectly clear. In September last year Lib Dem campaigners, including Rachelle Shepherd -Dubey who has since been elected a Councillor for Winnersh, presented a petition to the council. This triggered a debate in November during which residents urged the Council to think again about using a commercial operator seeking profits to partner with them in providing the library service.
Local Lib Dem campaigners and councillors are pleased that the new Conservative Executive member wants to get the decision right but are concerned about the effect of further delays. Cllr Shepherd- Dubey said “the Conservatives were supposed to make the final decision about outsourcing the library service in March then it was pushed off until June now it will be November. By then the staff and users of the service will have had this hanging over them for 18 months. We really hope the Conservatives will stick to this new date and not let it drag on any longer.”
The Lib Dem petition last year called upon the Conservatives to listen to the local community and asked them to think again about the outsourcing. The Lib Dems hope that this delay until November means the Conservatives are doing just that.