“Inside the Council”: How National Party Politics Hampers Local Progress

In my ideal world elected councillors across the borough would be able to discuss, debate and decide a way forward without having to take notice of what ‘party’ their fellow councillor belonged to. Why does it matter? Surely each councillor has been elected by their residents to represent to the best of their ability? To then ignore, or dismiss, those councillors who are not of the ruling party because of some sort of misguided, tribal priority seems undemocratic.

Back in the beginning of October, after discussions with ‘Plastic Free Windsor’ I emailed Cllr Carroll (Maidenhead) and Cllr Rankin (Windsor) to put forward a proposal for a cross party motion for the council to adopt the principals of ‘Plastic Free Communities’. The communities had completed the first four stages to achieve accreditation but the fifth (the council motion and the appointment of a councillor to each steering group), was not in their control. My draft motion was then forwarded by Cllr Carroll to Cllr Coppinger (as Lead for Sustainability).

OK….. positive start…. But , and with this council there is always a but, there it stopped. No one contacted me, no one asked to meet to discuss the proposal, so I followed it up with Cllr Coppinger at the beginning of November. I then received an e-mail stating that they already had a small community group in Maidenhead led by the Conservative Party that was looking into single-use plastic. Cllr Coppinger wrote that: “We would prefer to showcase our work through a motion rather than join up. You can of course support us if you wish.”

I didn’t find this helpful, so I submitted my motion to officers for inclusion at the next council meeting. I heard back immediately with the officer stating that Cllr Coppinger had already put in a motion and surprisingly he had submitted it before answering my email, utilising much of my draft motion.

SO…..I challenged… with a personal phone call. The culmination was that I allowed my motion to fall away, Cllr Coppinger amended his motion to ensure the Plastic Free Community groups achieved accredited status and I seconded Cllr Coppinger’s motion.

This highlights exactly why the partisan mindset of current politics needs to be challenged. The awareness of the effect of single use plastics on our environment should have been ‘cross party’ and we, as a council, should always put party politics to one side to support the community in their efforts.

Not every council behaves in this way but when it does it can usually be traced back to the senior elected leadership. It leaches into all aspects of council process and can be seen in how the scrutiny process is valued, how members speak to each other in meetings and whether transparency and accountability are actions or words.

Residents deserve better. The Royal Borough has big decisions to make that will shape our community for decades to come. If we can’t work together to address issues that we can agree are a problem—like reducing our use of plastics—then how can we answer the big questions, like how to make the Borough a better place to live and work?

As US President Harry Truman once said, ‘It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.’ I think he was on to something there, so why not give it a try?

Cllr Lynne Jones is an Independent Councillor with the Old Windsor Resident’s Association (Affiliated with “the Borough first”) and Representative for Old Windsor. Cllr Jones is also Leader of the Opposition.

Published and Promoted by Charles Hollingsworth on behalf of “the BOROUGH first“, both of PO BOX 4919, Maidenhead, SL60 1LS

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