Present: Councillors Shelim (Chairman), Cannon (Vice Chairman), Davies, Knowles and Story
Officers: Karen Shepherd (Head of Governance) and Suzanne Martin (Electoral & Information Governance Services Manager)
Councillor Shelim welcomed all to the meeting. He reminded Members that as they were now on the Working Group, they needed to maintain an open mind as to the outcome. The Working Group’s recommendations would need to be based on evidence from the representations to the consultation.
Appointment of Vice Chairman
Councillor Cannon was appointed as Vice Chairman.
Councillors Davies and Knowles expressed the view that, as a cross-party working group, a Vice Chairman from the opposition groups would be preferable.
Introduction and background to the review
Suzanne Martin provided an introductory presentation to Members.
Public engagement and consultation strategy
Members noted that the first priority was to establish a shareholder database as the authority had the duty to proactively consult with local groups. A public engagement strategy was also required.
It was confirmed that both Twitter and Facebook were already being used to promote the consultation.
Members suggested the following be included in the public engagement strategy:
- Windsor Town Council Steering Group – who already had a database of interested parties, although it was noted that the majority of these contacts would likely be in support of the establishment of a town council.
- Schools – request details of the consultation be circulated to parents, governors etc. Posters to be displayed on schools’ premises.
- Posters at community venues e.g. Gardeners Hall and Dedworth and Windsor libraries.
- All Members be asked to suggest additions to the stakeholder list.
- The local business community to be contacted via Paul Roach, Windsor Town Manager.
- Articles in the Windsor and Eton Express and Maidenhead Advertiser as well as the Windsor Observer.
- Neighbouring parish councils.
- A representative of the Working Group to promote the consultation via BBC Radio Berkshire and Swan Radio.
Members noted that whatever the final recommendations, not everyone would be happy. It was therefore very important that the consultation was robust to avoid potential legal issues in future.
The Working Group meetings would remain private, but it was noted that, for transparency, the minutes would be published. All consultation responses would also be published. Representatives of identified stakeholder groups could be invited to attend and present to the Group.
Next steps and actions
The Working Group agreed a document should be produced to detail all elements of the consultation and the stakeholder list. The Head of Law would be asked to review the public engagement strategy to confirm the consultation would be robust to legal challenge.
The Working Group agreed it would be useful to include information on the scope and powers of a parish/town council as not all consultation respondents would necessarily be aware of the difference between a parish/town council and a borough council. Information available from NALC and DALC could be used. Information on potential costs, number of councillors etc would also be useful, but it was noted that this level of detail would form part of the second round of consultation on the draft recommendations.
The Working Group also requested information on community governance reviews that had been undertaken for town councils elsewhere in the country. Suzanne Martin commented that Medway Council was an example of a principal authority that had considered a town council (for Rochester) but decided not to proceed. She would undertake some research and present findings to a future meeting.
Given the work already undertaken by the Windsor Town Council Steering Group, Members agreed to invite two representatives of the group to present to a future meeting, preferably before the end of August 2020.
A message would be included in the Members’ Update on Friday 14 August 2020 requesting all councillors put forward suggestions for inclusion in the stakeholder list. Suggestions to be submitted to the Electoral Services team by Friday 28 August 2020. All stakeholders would then be contacted week commencing Monday 31 August 2020, directed to the updated information on the CGR webpage and asked to submit responses to the consultation.
Members of the Working Group agreed to provide a link between the Working Group and political groups, and to also personally promote the consultation as much as possible. Members would be informed when the CGR webpage had been updated with information on the role of a parish/town council so that they could circulate the information about the consultation again.
To ensure Members of the Working Group had the maximum level of understanding on the issue, it was suggested that they could observe meetings of local parish councils. Eton Town Council would be similar to a Windsor town council due to the nature of the communities in the area.
Councillor Shelim commented that as Eton Town Council was within his ward, he would circulate details of upcoming meetings.
It was agreed that a mailout to all properties within the relevant area would be an important part of the second round of consultation on the draft recommendations. Responses could potentially be submitted via collection boxes in local shops and community halls, rather than being required to be posted back.
The meeting, which began at 3pm, ended at 4.14pm.