Local Liberal Democrats are dismayed by the fact that announcements about revisions to Woodley and Earley buses have been announced by a Conservative party press release rather than by anything being released officially by Reading Transport or Wokingham Borough Council.
Cllr Phil Challis (Lib Dem councillor for Loddon ward) said: ‘I am calling on Reading Transport and Wokingham Borough to publish full details about the route changes that come into effect just after the election and publish the new routes and times. We really can’t have situation where local Conservatives can selectively release information for political advantage without the information being in the public domain.’
‘Liberal Democrats have been campaigning hard for many years to ensure that residents get a good bus service. We have also been campaigning for more openness at the council. We want residents to be told properly about all the changes to the buses. That should be the job of the council and the bus companies and not of an individual Conservative councillor choosing what gets said to try to get party political advantage.’
Wokingham Liberal Democrats are demanding that Conservative-run Wokingham Borough Council has a more open and honest budget setting process in place before next year.
Cllr Kay Gilder (Lib Dem Councillor for South Lake ward) said: ‘There was some really sneaky stuff hidden away in this year’s Council budget. For example, the only information about car parking charge increases that the Conservatives had previously given out was that season tickets would be rising by an average of 56 per cent.
‘However, now that the list of car parking charges has been published in full, users of car parks in Winnersh, Earley and Wargrave will be shocked to learn that they will be paying 133.5 per cent more for a six month season ticket and a whopping 153 per cent more for a three month season ticket.’
‘Also hidden away was the substantial cut in funding for concessionary travel. This means that more 5,000 residents over the age of 70 will no longer receive travel tokens. The Conservatives did not bother to consult with anyone who receives travel tokens, or even inform the voluntary driver organisations upon whom these vulnerable residents will now have to rely. And even where they showed the cut in funding in their budget, they didn’t say that this meant that elderly residents in the Borough would lose their travel tokens. It is an utter disgrace.’
The Lib Dems have been startled to discover that the Conservative councillors on the Trading & Enterprises sub-committee (TESC), charged with overseeing the activities of Wokingham Enterprises Ltd, have approved the appointment of a director to the board of the company – even though the company had already terminated his appointment.
Wokingham Enterprises Ltd (WEL) is the company set up by the council to take over council-owned property in Wokingham town centre as part of the regeneration. It is planned that it will also be given control of other property around the borough, and may even expand its property portfolio beyond the borough’s borders. The company has been set up with 7 directors – 2 councillors, 2 council officers and 3 paid external directors with specialist knowledge.
Cllr Dee Tomlin (Lib Dem Councillor for Twyford ward) said: “WEL currently holds £10 million of council – that is, public – assets. Handing assets over to someone else is not without risk. It is really important that we are sure that the money is safe. An awful lot of what is happening is being done behind closed doors. That makes the role of TESC vitally important, as TESC meetings are almost the only place where the public, press and opposition can go to find out what is happening and reassure ourselves that there is proper oversight of WEL.
“The Lib Dems have been trying hard to find out what is going on, and so we have been paying our own money in fees to Companies House to get copies of the WEL documents that have been filed. One of those documents showed that one of the paid external directors, only appointed to the board in January, had his appointment terminated on 10th February. Imagine our surprise when on 21st February, TESC went ahead and confirmed his appointment – without a word being said about the fact that he was no longer a director. This calls into question the effectiveness of TESC – and is yet another example of the unacceptable secrecy surrounding the set up of WEL.”