At the Executive meeting on Thursday, Cllr Prue Bray, the leader of Wokingham Liberal Democrats, will be asking a question about the proposed Council job cuts. She will be asking how many Council employed staff will be made redundant and which Council services will be affected the most.
Cllr Bray said: ‘It is very important that the Council chiefs are completely up front about who will be affected by the job cuts, because the services offered to local residents will be impacted directly. The Conservatives have repeatedly said that their priority is the vulnerable people in the Borough. The Liberal Democrats will be monitoring closely what happens next – any cuts to services must not affect those offered to vulnerable people.’
The Council’s Decent Homes Project underway in Woodley is providing new kitchens and bathrooms in council-owned properties to bring these aging properties up to the government’s minimum standard. This is the first upgrade the properties have had in 30 to 50 years.
For the last two weeks, the Liberal Democrat councillors for Loddon ward, Phil Challis and Sue Smith, have been working hard with council officers to resolve residents’ issues with the way the Decent Homes Project is being mismanaged.
Phil Challis explained: ‘I was contacted by residents in Drovers Way telling me about the disruption they have suffered as a result of delays in the work. Work that they were told would take three weeks is taking more than six weeks. This is leaving elderly and vulnerable people to live for weeks in turmoil with their lives packed into boxes.
‘Residents also expressed concerns over the safety of some installations, the extended periods without services such as gas and toilets, and the length of time it is taking within each property. Seven hours without a toilet is no joke for anyone and can be much worse for the many elderly residents.’
Sue Smith said: ‘After Phil and I brought this issue to the attention of the Manager of Tenant Services, a sub-contractor has been replaced and the council appears to be taking steps to ensure that performance improves in the future – we will continue to monitor the situation very closely.’
Liberal Democrats were shocked, therefore, to find that the Executive Member of Social Care (and Housing) could not answer a question on the subject at last Thursday’s Council meeting, explaining that this was the first he heard about the issue.
Phil Challis said: ‘I think residents have a right to expect the Executive member to know that things are going seriously wrong in departments under his control, rather than take the Special Responsibility Allowance each month without taking any responsibility. We want the Executive Member to ensure that the Council receives value for money from the contractors and that residents, many of whom are elderly or vulnerable, receive the decent home that they deserve with an acceptable level of disruption.’
At the Council meeting the Conservative Executive deferred the consideration of a Housing Strategy for a further two months.
The Liberal Democrats believe that it is important for any borough to have a housing strategy – each area has its own issues and residents need to know that the council understands their issues and has a strategy to deal with them.
Phil Challis (Liberal Democrat Councillor for Loddon Ward) said: ‘I was surprised to read that work started on this Housing Strategy before I was even a member of this council. It has so far taken 28 months to produce – an elephant would have conceived, delivered and have a 6 month old baby in the same time.’
Prue Bray (Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on Wokingham Borough Council) said: ‘During the lengthy gestation period of the Housing Strategy, the stock answers from the Conservative leadership regarding any housing issue have been to blame anyone but themselves. Residents expect leadership and ambition from the council and this has been sadly lacking for some time from the Conservatives with respect to a housing strategy.’