Community Governance Review Working Group Wednesday 9 June 2021
Present: Councillors Shelim (Chairman), Cannon (Vice Chairman), Davies, Knowles and Hilton
Officers: Suzanne Martin (Service Lead, Information Governance and Electoral Services), Mark Pattison (Project Management Officer), Julian Freeman (Service Lead, Corporate Projects)
Karen Shepherd (Head of Governance),
Councillor Shelim welcomed all to the meeting.
Julian Freeman was introduced to Members as a new member of the Project team who would be lending his support to the delivery of the review.
Summary of consultation responses received to date
Suzanne Martin provided an update on the consultation.
The consultation closed on Wednesday 2 June and all the 656 responses received on Engagement HQ had been shared with the CGR Members along with a small number of email and written responses. The raw data has since been enhanced with an Excel spreadsheet version which was also shared and the Projects Team will now do some further analysis to show the distribution of responses by postcode area to ascertain which responses are within the review area and which are outside. This knowledge will help inform Members’ decisions.
Cllr Davies noted that she had identified 29 responses from people outside of the affected area particularly from Eton Wick area. Suzanne Martin clarified that it is up to the CGR Members to decide on the relative weighting they wish to apply to these responses.
It was noted that the response level of circa 700 from the circa 20,000 eligible voters represents circa 3% of the eligible affected voters. Councillor Cannon expressed some concern on whether this is sufficient to make a recommendation. Suzanne Martin confirmed there is no legal minimum threshold but the CGR Members can reference the turnout in their final report.
Suzanne provided summary numbers on the three main questions in the consultation
The group then discussed themes and observations on the responses. Key points included:
- a number of responses seem to be based on flawed understanding of the likely powers of any new Town Council. There was a common misconception that a Windsor council would have the same powers as the RBWM and Windsor and Maidenhead would be split into two separate local authority areas.
- there was a noticeable percentage of comments expressing the wish to move away from a perceived Maidenhead dominated authority
- a large number of respondents (173) did not make any qualifying comments for their reasons on voting.
- although over 1500 people visited the website only 655 chose to engage and provide a response.
- There were very few alternate views put forward in relation to electoral arrangements– one suggestion regarding adjustment of ward boundary lines in Clewer East and Dedworth West.
For all the above Suzanne Martin emphasised it is up to the CGR Members to decide on any relative weightings they might apply to this – there is no legal requirement. It was also noted by the Group that the Final Recommendations will still need to be voted on by Full Council in late July.
Councillor Knowles was not comfortable with filtering out responses – he commented that the CGR group had not engaged in any campaigning or attempt to influence the outcome of the consultation.
It was also noted that the consultation had taken place in parallel with activity in delivering the May elections (the leaflet delivered to every household in the review area had arrived in the same week that poll cards were despatched). The response rate for the consultation was even lower than the election turnout. There was some concern about the apparent apathy level although it was noted the election concerned the filling of an elected office whereas the consultation is about assessing appetite for change, and comparisons are limited.
Clarification was sought on what Members could do with the consultation responses. It was confirmed that Members can discuss themes with colleagues but should not share the unredacted responses that had been sent to them as a Group – the redacted data with all personal details anonymised will be published on the council website in July but the existing data should not be shared outside the group.
Suzanne Martin reiterated the following stages of remaining activity:
- The Final Recommendations of the working group would be on the agenda for Full Council on Tuesday 20 July. To meet this date, the report would need to be published at the beginning of July; likely date being the 9th.
- There were two further meetings of the group scheduled; Thursday 24 June and Thursday 8 July.
- At the meeting on Thursday 24 June, members would need to make a clear decision on whether they support the formation of a new town council or are opposed. Members would carry out a further review of all the consultation responses received at the second stage to make an informed opinion and bring their views and supporting arguments to the next meeting for discussion.
- Where it was decided to support the formation of a new town council, members would need to make a decision on the electoral arrangements as a Group on Thursday 24 June.
- Officers are currently undertaking analysis of the postcodes/polling districts for the consultation responses and would be engaging the assistance of the GIS team in IT with formulating some maps. These would be circulated to Members as early as possible before the next meeting.
- The officer working group is undertaking parallel work to identify assets and services which could be transferred to a new town council. An update on these findings would be shared with Members at the next meeting.
- The Thursday 8 July meeting would take place in person in Windsor.
Suzanne Martin will begin drafting the final report after the Thursday 24 June meeting.
Date of next meeting
The next meeting was scheduled for Thursday 24 June 2021.
The meeting, which began at 3pm, finished at 4.30pm.