A New Year and the Chance for Change: A Better Borough is Possible

Have you ever been advised to ‘control the controllable’ or to focus on the matters on which you can make a difference, rather than curse or worry about things you cannot influence? Well, most of us have, though I suspect many of us will have spent more time railing against the iniquities of life than actually ‘doing something.’

Just look at what’s happened in the Royal Borough in recent years. We have witnessed major changes being imposed upon residents in everything from housing, education and the shape of our town centres. Residents have been left as bystanders, fed the occasional crumb of hope dashed by contradictory statements and decisions being taken without supporting evidence. We’ve even seen attempts being made to overturn decisions, like with the Vicus Way car park, which were duly reached in line with due process.

The challenge is working out what you can influence and how to focus your efforts. So, is there anything that can be done with our local politics, or must we accept the Council’s actions as beyond our scope of control?

The answer, ultimately, comes to accountability. Councillors can only continue to serve in their roles if they win the support of their residents—but elections are held only once every four years. Between elections, Councillors representing national parties have been more interested in the priorities of the national masters of their parties than on their local residents.

This is why, for example, we’ve seen decisions that fly in the face of logic. Following their Leaders’ guidance, Tory Councillors approved construction of The Landing in Maidenhead, a site that professional planners labelled “the slums of tomorrow”. We’ve also seen Councillors withdraw support for expanding the Lowbrook Academy, the 4th best primary school in England and a major draw for young families to the area. We've seen Councillors supporting the massive development of Sunningdale Park against the policies of the Ascot Neighbourhood Plan, a plan that was drawn up by local people and approved by the RBWM. We've even heard Councillors singing praises to their Leader after he received global scorn for his callous approach to homelessness in the run-up to the Royal Wedding.

A feeling of helplessness can ensue. Politics nationally have become disconnected from mainstream thought. With the old-‘left-right’ split becoming blurred, people are looking for an uplifting vision that they themselves can provide, free from the strictures of national parties, in their local lives.

This isn’t something beyond residents’ control, but something firmly within it. Residents don’t have to accept this way of working. ‘the Borough first’ (tBf) provides another way. tBf was set up last summer to give a voice to those who feel ignored and give hope to those who want better outcomes for our community. Eschewing the top-down approach of the Westminster-based Parties, we look to build policies that reflect the needs and ambitions of our communities within the Royal Borough.

The Royal Borough is at a crossroads, and the changes made now will affect residents for generations to come. The future of our green belts, of affordable housing, our town centres, our public spaces and our economy are all at stake. Done right, residents can the seize this moment and make our community an exciting place to live and work.

Residents can do more than elect Councillors and hope for something different. They can elect Councillors committed to working with residents, as well as working for them. They can elect Councillors who will empower residents, enabling residents to play an active part in reshaping our Borough so that Local Government can truly meet their needs.

Surely now is the time for bold spirits to seize the moment. That moment starts with the small step that becomes a gallop, culminating in success that goes beyond the May 2019 elections to benefit the community today and in generations to come. Cllr Charles Hollingsworth is Leader of 'the BOROUGH first' and represents the Pinkneys Green Ward. Published and Promoted by Charles Hollingsworth on behalf of “the BOROUGH first“, both of PO BOX 4919, Maidenhead, SL60 1LS

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