Letter to the Wokingham.Today paper 23rd March 2021
I was exceptionally disappointed to see Councillor Pauline Jorgensen’s statement in the latest Wokingham Borough News. She says that “Car ownership in Wokingham Borough is the highest in the country - we can’t change that but we are doing all we can to make our road network as efficient as possible.” Councillor Jorgensen is the executive member for Highways and Transport, responsible for delivering the Council’s Climate Emergency Plan commitment to a net shift of 20% of car traffic to walking and cycling by 2030. Presumably, she also takes responsibility for delivering the Conservative government’s commitment to 50% of local trips to be made by walking and cycling by 2030.
Owning a car is a personal choice that no politician would contemplate interfering with. But it is clear that given safe and attractive alternatives, people will use their car less and many will happily make fewer car journeys. Continuing to invest huge amounts of council resources in attracting more cars to our roads is the politics of the past. Wokingham needs a better future.
Cllr Paul Fishwick (Winnersh), Lib Dem lead on Highways and Transport
Last Thursday, the 18th February 2021, Wokingham Borough Council had its Budget Council meeting. This is the meeting where the Council set the Council Tax and decide on its spending for the the next year, with a plan for the following years.
The meeting was a four hour long virtual meeting, starting at 8pm and ending just before midnight.
Our Council Tax payments do need to go up, because of the large, Covid sized hole in the Council Finances. There has been no income from Leisure centres and a much reduced amount from car parking and licensing. The central government funding to cover the costs from the pandemic have not covered everything that the Council needed to do.
In summary, the key things that came out of this meeting were:
1) Council tax will go up 4.99%
2) The Council’s borrowing will pass £3/4 Billion by the end of 2024.
3) There is NO Covid Recovery Plan
4) Locating the right information in the Council Finance reports is a complex task.
5) Wokingham Town Centre Regeneration has, so far, not contributed any money to Wokingham Borough Council.
6) The Council leadership ignore the Constitution.
These are all things that we would seek to change if we were to get control of this council in May.
Wokingham Lib Dem councillors have criticised the government over their late announcement on school closures. Lib Dem Group Leader Councillor Lindsay Ferris said “It is quite appalling that the government left it until the term had officially started to announce that schools will be returning to lockdown conditions. Communication locally has not been helped by a statement from the council, confusingly headed ‘School Re-opening in Wokingham’ – the opposite of what is happening.
“We feel great sympathy for all the school staff, who had only 12 hours’ notice that everything had changed. We also feel sympathy for parents, trying to juggle work and childcare, with no time to prepare. The decision should, and could, have been made much sooner, as many were urging. But dither and delay is what we have come to expect from this government.”