For too long, residents across the Royal Borough have endured a local government that seemed more interested in seeing what it could get away with than in how it can best serve them. Examples abound, whether it’s paving our precious green belt with unaffordable homes, cancelling the expansion of one of the finest primary schools in the country or heaping international scorn upon us in the run-up to the Royal Wedding. When residents dared to complain, they’ve been ignored or brushed away with platitudes like “we’re building a borough for everyone”.
Moreover, councillors affiliated with national parties can use their posts to pursue larger personal ambitions, even though MPs have no oversight or statutory control over their local councils. This means that councillors may pursue policies they know aren’t in the best interest of their community. National party politics has not served the Borough well, and we need a different approach: Local councillors focused on local needs.
What's the problem in the council?
The biggest problem is that our local government in the Royal Borough does not have the checks and balances it needs to make sound decisions that best represent public interests and needs. The council does have what’s known as a ‘Cabinet and Scrutiny’ model in place, which enables backbenchers of the ruling group to review proposed policies and decisions. However, this only works if members of the Cabinet—those Councillors responsible for specific policy areas—permit themselves to be ‘Scrutinised’ and the backbenchers take their responsibility to ‘scrutinise’ seriously. Without this oversight, proper process isn’t followed and democracy is effectively dead.
Unfortunately, this is where we are in RBWM. Policies that should be developed through the cross-party Scrutiny panels are instead being formed and decided on behind closed doors, with Scrutiny panels simply ‘rubber stamping’ them through at the 11th hour. Worse still, Cabinet wait for instructions from the Leader before making decisions. This means that policies effectively come from one person—often someone who has national political ambitions.
The stakes are high for those who dare to question the Leader’s will. This was recently evidenced by a Cabinet member being appointed and sacked within 6 days after publicly announcing a policy in development, presumably because the policy was not welcome. Council Officers—who are meant to be apolitical so they can offer unbiased guidance—have also fallen into this political trap. Many excellent officers have resigned from RBWM, some describing a bullying culture.
What will we do?
The policy of ‘the Borough first’ is to bring open debate and proper scrutiny back into the council. tBf will act as an umbrella to support those who wish to stand independent of any national party and commit themselves to putting the needs of Borough residents above all. tBf will select candidates who share this vision, have the ability to perform well as Councillors and agree to pursue an informed decision-making process and seek consensus.
In turn, tBf will provide a supportive environment for candidates and Councillors, so they can best serve their constituents. tBf will provide training and guidance to help candidates understand the inner-workings of the Council and their statutory responsibilities. This helps candidates develop more quickly so they can spend more time and energy responding to constituent needs and creating sound policies that benefit residents across the Royal Borough.
For more information, please visit theboroughfirst.org
Councilor Claire Stretton is a member of ‘the Borough first’ and represents Boyne Hill.
Published and Promoted by Charles Hollingsworth on behalf of “the BOROUGH first“, both of PO BOX 4919, Maidenhead, SL60 1LS