Community Governance Review : Working group minutes : Friday 18 December 2020

Table of Contents

Community Governance Review Working Group Friday 18 December 2020, 1pm, Microsoft Teams Meeting

Present: Councillors Shelim (Chairman), Cannon (Vice Chairman), Davies, Knowles and Hilton
Officers: Suzanne Martin (Electoral & Information Governance Services Manager), Karen Shepherd (Head of Governance)

Welcome

Councillor Shelim welcomed all to the meeting. He explained Councillor Story had stepped down from the Working Group as he had now been appointed as Mayor. Councillor Hilton was the new Member of the Group. Councillor Hilton had been sent copies of the previous meeting minutes and a link to the CGR webpage.

The Working Group thanked Councillor Story for his input and wished him all the best for his new role. 

Declarations of Interest

At a previous meeting it had been formally recorded that Members had no interests to declare and all came to the review with an open mind. Councillor Hilton confirmed that this was also the case for him. 

Apologies for Absence

None received 

Update from the Head of Finance

It was noted that Andrew Vallance had confirmed that the additional Council Tax collected across both areas was £1.217m; of this £469,000 was in Windsor.

Members had also requested that Andrew Vallance provide details of the likely level of CIL/S106 that a town council would likely receive. It was noted that this information had not yet been received.

Suggestions for community identities/ward boundaries

Suzanne Martin provided an update on the process to ensure Councillor Hilton was aware of the current position. The group’s next action was to put together warding patterns to be published in the draft recommendations in February 2021.

Councillor Davies explained she had looked at the information circulated about polling districts and the numbers of local electors. She therefore suggested a pattern of 2 councillors per polling district other than in WCDE3 and WCE3 which would only have 1 each, and WEC1 which would have 3. The 2 Old Windsor wards would join together. This gave a minimum of 873 voters per councillor / maximum of 1128 per councillor. This would give an overall town council of 21 councillors, which was in line with the figures suggested by the Aston Business School and in NALC guidance. She was concerned about creating different wards to borough wards; her suggestion would keep it simple for all. 

Councillor Cannon commented that the pattern had to follow the existing polling districts as the base building blocks, so the question was how combine them. As a parish Chairman, he felt that 21 councillors might be too high so suggested combining some of the wards, which would also pull together community identities. Great Park and the Boltons were both very low density but still needed to be represented. It made more sense being put together than putting the Boltons elsewhere.  

Councillor Shelim commented that the consultation highlighted the need to represent communities.
Councillor Knowles stated that he agreed with Councillor Cannon. Old Windsor as a ward was spread across a number of areas. The Boltons was in Old Windsor council ward but not in the parish area. Ensuring equality and numbers was important but so was ensuring communities. WOW4, WOW3  and to the end of the Great Park could be an option. The Boltons could then be an enclave. The rest was fairly easy because of historically defined areas such as Clewer Village, Clewer New Town, and Spital. In the west, Broom Farm had been suggested by some as an area. In the eastern area, the problem was Park was a geographically huge area and had its own system of doing everything; it was a community managed apart from everything else but it would still have concerns it would want to input. Ensuring it had representation on the town council would be a very positive thing.

Councillor Shelim highlighted the issue of part of Dedworth (currently sitting in Bray Parish) should be included.. If it were added at a later time more councillors may be needed. Councillor Knowles highlighted that the group had agreed at a previous meeting that this was not in the scope of the review.

It was confirmed that the existing boundary of Old Windsor Parish Council was not affected by this review, it would just be the Boltons part of the Old Windsor ward, which was not currently parished, which would be brought into a new Windsor Town Council.

It was noted that the electorate was 20,000. Councillor Hilton commented he had been a parish councillor for a number of years. Sunninghill and Ascot was not the biggest area but had the greatest population of any current parish in the borough. It was not possible within the area to argue there were unique areas and overall views were likely to be similar. The same could not be said for the Windsor area under consideration
Councillor Knowles explained that was why the Group had decided to start with the building blocks of the wards. Once this was decided the Group could consider if one large parish was appropriate or it should be split into two. 

Councillor Hilton questioned the rationale for 21 parish councillors, given there were only 41 borough councillors. Councillor Cannon referred to the documentation considered at the last meeting which suggested numbers in this region. Councillor Knowles commented that recruiting councillors was a difficult job. Councillor Hilton echoed the comments; it was rare that all positions on a parish council were filled. At the first set of elections they may be filled but enthusiasm tended to drop off. 
Councillor Cannon suggested if the pattern was 1 councillor per polling district this would be 12, then you could add one or two where there was a higher population density in the town centre. Councillor Knowles highlighted the importance of business representation in these areas as well so to be equitable suggested they could have 2 councillors.

Councillor Davies commented that 2 councillors in in WEC1 meant 1 per 1400 whereas other areas were lower. Areas could be combined to get to 3000, but this meant combining geographical areas that did not make sense. The pattern could be just 1 per polling district other than combining WOW3 and WOW4. St Leonards could be combined with the Boltons. Councillor Knowles agreed as the Cranbourne area was linked to the park community. Councillor Shelim commented that St Leonards was a very long road, and in his view it should be split. 

Councillor Cannon proposed 1 councillor per polling district with the exception of combining WOW3 and WOW4, giving 10 councillors. Councillor Hilton and Shelim both commented that this would be low for the size of population. Councillor Knowles felt that 10 would be achievable and sustainable. If it were to be increased in future, it would require a full CGR process. Councillor Shelim suggested a representative from the military in addition.

Suzanne Martin highlighted that 10 was a long way away from the recommendations of the Aston Business School and NALC. Councillor Cannon suggested, to look at a higher number, the combined wards could be removed and each given 2 councillors, but this would mean some very small areas like Frogmore would have 2.

Councillor Hilton stated that he liked the logic of WOW3, WOW4 and WCDE3 together as they were all associated with the Great Park. If they were combined and each area was given 2 councillors, the total was 20. 

Councillor Cannon suggested the combined ward should get 3, leading to a total of 21. Odd numbers were more practical for voting purposes.  Councillor Knowles highlighted that a higher number also gave more possibility of splitting into 2 bodies. 

It was noted that the local government boundary review process had a margin of plus or minus 10% but there was more free rein in a CGR process. Councillor Cannon commented that the LGBCE did not take communities into effect, it just looked at numbers. The importance of communities had been very strong in the consultation responses. 

Members considered the number of electors per ward and agreed the following pattern, which delivered 21 councillors across 10 parish wards:

Clewer and Dedworth East ward

Polling district Local electors Councillors Electors per councillor
WCDE1 2,005 2 1003
WCDE2 2,150 2 1075
WCDE3 873 - -

Clewer and Dedworth West

Polling district Local electors Councillors Electors per councillor
WCDW1 2,257 2 1129
WCDW3 2,044 2 1022

Clewer East

Polling district Local electors Councillors Electors per councillor
WCE1 1,805 2 903
WCE2 2,056 2 1028
WCE3 892 1 892

Eton and Castle

Polling district Local electors Councillors Electors per councillor
WEC1 2,881 3 960
WEC2 2,047 2 1024

Old Windsor

Polling district Local electors Councillors Electors per councillor
WOW3 86 - -
WOW4 1,497 3 818*

In total 20,593 local electors and 21 councillors.

*Comprising WCDE3, WOW3 and WOW4

Suzanne Martin explained that the draft recommendations would need to include electorate forecasts for the next 5 years. She proposed this be calculated using a similar format to the electoral review in which a 1.8% uplift as a natural increase was applied. She agreed to provide the figures at the next meeting. 

Councillor Knowles summarised that the proposal took into consideration the numbers and fair representation but balanced by community, with boundary by polling district. He believed it to be a defendable proposition. 

It was noted that some election costs were based on number of electoral divisions. Returning Officer fees were currently set in region of £100 per parish ward. If elections (contested) were held at same time as local elections other costs of staffing, hire of polling stations, stationery costs etc. were shared with the borough. Councillor Cannon commented this was a further reason to recommend sticking to the normal electoral cycle to avoid repeated costs for the town council.

Suzanne Martin agreed to provide detail on predicted costs of administering elections to the review area at the next meeting.

Stage 2 consultation

The Working Group had received an offer from the Windsor Town Council Steering Committee to help with the second stage of consultation, for example sending leaflets out on behalf of the council. Suzanne Martin was asked to respond to the offer, politely declining as the council would be sending out its own documents via the Council Tax leaflet. It would also not be appropriate for a third party with a vested interest to be involved.

It was noted that two representations had been received outside of the consultation period. Suzanne Martin was asked to respond to each setting out that they could not be considered as the consultation had closed on 28 October 2020. However, both parties should be encouraged to submit representations during the second stage consultation. 

Other topics members would like to focus on for next meeting 

Members agreed that the following issues should be discussed at the next meeting:

  • Names for ward areas, including the combined area. Park was suggested.
  • Costs of services to be transferred to a new Town Council.

Karen Shepherd updated Members on the discussions at a recent officer Working Group. It was noted that the borough council could decide which powers to transfer initially, once elected a town council could then negotiate with borough for other powers. The draft recommendations would need to list out the powers of a town council e.g. non statutory consultee on planning.

Members agreed that the proposed warding pattern provided a fair spread of representation therefore the proposal should be for one town council across the whole unparished area. This did not preclude anyone submitting feedback to the second consultation on the potential for more than one body. 

Suzanne Martin reminded Members that any proposals decided in the draft recommendations would need to document  how the arrangements reflected local identities and delivered strong community governance which was convenient and effective.

The draft recommendations would need to cover: 

  • Electoral arrangements: area covered, warding patterns, date of elections, number of councillors.
  • Consequential matters: assets to be transferred, powers to be delegated, an indicative precept

Date of next meeting

Members agreed at least two meetings would be needed in January 2021, as the draft recommendations would need to be concluded by the end of the month.

Members agreed to request a representative from Chippenham Town Council be invited to a meeting on Friday 8 January 2021.

The meeting, which began at 1pm, finished at 3.12pm.