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Liberal Democrats Support Windsor Town Council

October 28, 2020 11:59 PM
By Windsor Liberal Democrats in www.windsorlibdems.org.uk

The Liberal Democrats' submission to the Community Governance Review supports establishing a Windsor Town Council.

Liberal Democrats in Windsor have included establishing a Windsor Town Council in our election manifesto for the last two electoral cycles at the Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead.

This is our submission to the Community Governance Review:

Windsor Liberal Democrats' submission to

RBWM Community Governance Review Working Group

for a Windsor Town Council

Introduction

The Liberal Democrats as a party, nationally and locally in Windsor, have long advocated devolving power closer to the people.

A town council for Windsor has been a manifesto commitment of the party for at least two Borough elections, and more generally supported before that. In many ways creating such a town council will merely make Windsor equal to the rest of the Royal Borough (with the obvious exception of Maidenhead); however, it also gives the residents of Windsor many possibilities to direct the future of their own town by creating a strong, cohesive community and voluntary sector.

The Windsor Liberal Democrats (WLD) therefore believe:

  • there should be a single Windsor Town Council (WTC) for all the currently unparished area
  • that it should be warded to represent as far as possible the recognised geographic communities within that area
  • it should have 20-25 town councillors depending on the precise number and boundaries of the wards created

We have several issues with the Community Governance Review (CGR) terms of reference which will be explored in a separate submission.


The answers and recommendations set out below are within the current terms of reference. Obviously if the terms of reference are altered, our recommendations will need to be altered as well.

Consultation Question 1:

What is the appetite for creating a new town council for Windsor? Is a parish council needed or desired?

The lack of a town council for Windsor (and Maidenhead) appears to be somewhat of an historical oversight as both towns were/are surrounded by parish councils.


Indeed, despite lacking a parish or town council, the residents of Windsor still pay a precept in all but name.


Bodies like the town forums are a recognition of the democratic and governance deficit that exists but are a poor compromise and are disliked by many residents.

The existence of a grass roots campaign in Windsor, with a popular petition to create a town council, is proof of a desire for a local democratic body 1.


Creating a Windsor Town Council would do more than correcting an historical anomaly which left democratic deficit; it would enable the residents of Windsor to have a greater democratic say in the running of their town. This would create numerous possibilities to grow and strengthen their home to be a strong, cohesive community and voluntary sector.

Consultation Question 2

Is there a sense of community identity in the review area and should this community be represented by its own parish council?

Windsor Liberal Democrats believe there is a sense of community, that it extends across the unparished area, and it should be represented in a single town council.

If asked to define themselves by a sense of place, a place with a 'positive' feeling for people and local distinctiveness, in a geographic or community-based sense, most residents within Windsor would call themselves Windsorians, particularly when delineating themselves from the residents of Maidenhead, and other surrounding towns.

There is also precedent in that many of the political and business organisations that serve Windsor encompass the whole area.


The grass roots petition calling for a Windsor Town Council, which was the impetus for the setting up of the Community Governance Review, was for all the unparished area and is indicative of a sense of civic values, responsibility and pride in the whole of Windsor. There are geographical communities within the overlaying community of Windsor such as Clewer and Dedworth and some sub-Windsor organisations, such as the West Windsor Residents Association.

However, such geographical communities and organisations, whilst important, are not effective and convenient sizes for separate councils compared to a Windsor Town Council, which can be reflective of the identities and interests of the community in the Windsor area as a whole, whilst avoiding unnecessary duplication of government structures (see answer to question 4 and other submission) 2.

Consultation Question 3

How could a new parish council take shape?

The Windsor Town Council, as with all local councils, must have an Annual Parish Meeting, an Annual General Meeting, and standing orders for the election of a Chair/Vice Chair and vote to accept its standing committees once a year.


The exact nature of the standing orders and committee structures must be tailored to the needs of the Windsor Town Council and Windsor but can be easily based on existing local councils or with guidance from NALC 3.

Due to historical precedent and to further community cohesion and civic pride an honorary position of Windsor Town Mayor should be considered.

A code of conduct and terms of reference, including a method for holding Windsor Town Councillors to public account, should be drawn up. This will need to include use of Social Media and data etc in the digital age.

As per the Parish Charter, mechanisms and procedures for cooperation with the Royal Borough will need to be established, as well as the independent nature of the Windsor Town Council 4.


A method(s) of reporting to and from the Borough Councillors elected for wards within the Windsor Town Council boundaries and the Windsor Town Council will need to be devised, such as written reports for full councils and /or Q&A sessions.

An important consideration will be the assets and responsibilities transferred from the Royal Borough to the Windsor Town Council by the Government Reorganisation order.


They must be in proportion, and the Windsor Liberal Democrats favour substantial transfer to create the necessary conditions for the positive opportunities the residents of Windsor desire 5.

If, as implied, the precept and nominated land/property is transferred/created the first April after the reorganisation order is issued then the relevant funds and assets must be ring fenced and administered by an interim body until the inaugural election of the Windsor Town Council 6.

Apart from the minimum number of Councillors (five), there appears to be little to guide the number a town council should have. Too few risks the creation of a clique and loss of public engagement, too many risks it becoming unwieldy or having unfilled seats.

The recommendations cited would appear to indicate that a council between 13 and 25 councillors would be in order for a town the size of Windsor 7. Both of the models we have considered would end up with a number of 23. The exact number would depend upon the number of wards created (See answer 4) but the low to mid-twenties seems sensible.

Consultation Question 4

Should a new parish council be warded to reflect the communities that exist in the review area? If so, how should these boundaries be drawn?

As stated, the WLD believe a council of 20 to 25 councillors would be desirable within the recommended guidance. Such a size of council would strongly suggest that it would have to be warded 8.

One option is to create large wards from the Borough wards, or their polling districts, within the unparished area. This would create four wards with say 5/6 town councillors each and one, with the Old Windsor polling districts within Windsor Town, with 2. (Note elector numbers are based on current 2020 electoral role as at 13/10/2020. More up to date figures are available since we made our submission)

Borough Ward Model:

  • Windsor Clewer & Dedworth East: 5074 electors, 5 Town Councillors, 1015 electors per councillor
  • Windsor Clewer & Deworth West: 4574 electors, 5 Town Councillors, 915 electors per councillor
  • Windsor Clewer East: 5178 electors, 5 Town Councillors, 1036 electors per councillor
  • Windsor Part of Eton & Castle: 5855 electors, 6 Twon Councillors, 976 electors per councillor
  • Windsor Boltons & Home Park*: 1731 electors, 2 Town Councillors, 866 electors per councillor
  • Overall Totals at 13/10/2020: 22412 electors, 23 Town Councillors, 974 electors per councillor

*It's anticipated that polling district WOW 3 Home Park which has only 98 electors would form part of a Town Council Ward with a neighbouring Polling District (PD).

However, this suggestion has drawbacks; in that the current Royal Borough Council Wards are not seen as representing natural communities or areas within Windsor.

Borough Polling District Ward Model:

An alternative which uses the current electoral infrastructure, would be to use the existing 12 RBWM polling districts as the basis of the wards for the proposed Windsor Town Council.

This is our suggested model.

Each having between 1 and 4 Town Councillors, depending upon the number of residents registered in the district/ward, would create the desired number of 20 to 25 councillors while being closer to the residents and existing communities.

  • Dedworth Manor (WCDE 1): 2128 electors, 2 Town Councillors, 1064 electors per councillor

  • Clewer Hill (WCDE 2): 2164 electors, 2 Town Councillors, 1082 electors per councillor

  • St Leonard's (WCDE 3): 782 electors, 1 Town Councillors, 782 electors per councillor

  • Dedworth Riverside (WCDW 1): 2510 electors, 3 Town Councillors, 836 electors per councillor

  • Dedworth Green (WCDW 3): 2064 electors, 2 Town Councillors, 1032 electors per councillor

  • Clewer New Town (WCE 1): 1906 electors, 2 Town Councillors, 953 electors per councillor

  • Spital (WCE 2): 2264 electors, 2 Town Councillors, 1132 electors per councillor

  • Clewer Village (WCE 3): 1008 electors, 1 Town Councillors, 1008 electors per councillor

  • Castle South (WEC 1): 3587 electors, 4 Town Councillors, 897 electors per councillor

  • Castle North (WEC 2): 2268 electors, 2 Town Councillors, 1134 electors per councillor

  • Boltons & Home Park* (WOW 3* & 4): 1731 electors, 2 Town Councillors, 866 electors per councillor

  • Overall Totals at 13/10/2020: 22412 electors, 23 Town Councillors, 974 electors per councillor

*It's anticipated that polling district WOW 3 Home Park which has only 98 electors would form part of a Town Council Ward with a neighbouring Polling District (PD).

The low population number in polling district WOW 3 could mean its joining with another polling district to create a larger ward 9. The choice of which polling district could be subject to consultation with the residents of the Home Park.


However, joining two distinct areas such as these undermines the emphasis placed on recognising existing communities within the larger Windsor identity, and may well lead to a clash of conflicting local interests 10.


The names are those of the districts as currently used by Electoral Services and found in a table provided by the Royal Borough; the names of the new wards should be a matter of consultation with the residents of Windsor 11.

Summary

The lack of a town council for Windsor not only places the town behind other areas of the Royal Borough but has also denied its residents a democratic say in deciding the town's future and direction.


Despite this, there is a strong sense of community within Windsor and the residents of Windsor believe it should be represented by a single town council; dividing Windsor between more than one town council would be at best inefficient due to duplication, at worst actively undermine community cohesion.


To do justice to the Windsorian desire to improve their town and community and create a civic sense of responsibility and pride it must be provided with the necessary resources to do so.

To ensure all residents and neighbourhoods are adequately represented the council will require a number of wards and between 20 to 25 councillors.

References:

  1. (Proposed Windsor Town Council Campaign Committee, 2020)

  2. (Department for Communities and Local Government , 2020) para. 48.

  3. (National Association of Local Councils, 2020)

  4. (Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, 2020)

  5. (Department for Communities and Local Government , 2020) para. 103

  6. (Department for Communities and Local Government , 2020) para. 30

  7. (Department for Communities and Local Government , 2020) para. 154-155

  8. (Department for Communities and Local Government , 2020) para. 159

  9. (Department for Communities and Local Government , 2020) para. 166

  10. (Department for Communities and Local Government , 2020) para. 162

  11. PDF from RBWM - FOI request. See Appendix.

Sources:

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