12:04PM, Friday 29 April 2022
Slough’s ruling Labour group has outlined a 12-point plan of priorities for the coming year which include ‘providing the best quality core service the council can afford.’
Council leader James Swindlehurst told cabinet colleagues last month the local authority is ‘working as hard as it possibly can’ to resolve Slough’s dire financial situation.
But the path ahead remains ominous with the council needing to pay off £760million of borrowing costs with the lo-cal authority requiring a capitalisation directive from the Government to sell its land and buildings to pay for the delivery of services.
Government-appointed commissioners are also still in place to help Slough rectify its finances.
The Labour group’s election priorities include providing the best value for money for taxpayers and balancing the council’s forward budget.
Former council leader Rob Anderson is standing for re-election for Labour
A commitment has been made to provide services which keep Slough’s most vulnerable residents healthy and ensuring the borough’s public spaces and parks are safe and clean.
Labour said it wants to work with Thames Valley Police and residents’ groups to improve neighbourhood safety.
It also wants to work with neighbourhood watch groups to tackle anti-social behaviour.
A pledge has been made to recruit more staff and shorten the time taken for customer services calls to be answered at the council.
WiFi connectivity will also be improved in the town centre and the ruling Labour Group has pledged to help social housing tenants get access to faster broadband.
Labour said it remains committed to promoting sustainable transport and wants to introduce more cycling paths and walkways in the borough.
The ruling political group added it will work to reduce inequality and poverty in the borough which it says has been worsened by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Labour said it is looking to help Slough residents find the jobs they need by co-ordinating skills and training events and introducing more job fairs in the town.
Candidates for the Slough Conservatives are standing under the banner of ‘kick out the councillors who bankrupted your council’ following the recent financial turmoil.
The past year has seen the Labour-run local authority embroiled in financial difficulties.
In July the council had to ban all non-essential spending by issuing a Section 114 notice.
The local authority is now aiming to sell £600 million worth of its council-owned land and buildings to help pay off its spiralling borrowing costs.
The Slough Conservatives currently has five elected councillors and will be contesting every seat at the upcoming election.
Anna Wright (centre) is standing for re-election for the Slough Conservatives
The opposition group said it wants to ‘save’ the council’s front-line services by eliminating waste and inefficiencies.
It is also opposed to the planned rise in council tax for the current financial year and is targeting the sale of Slough Borough Council’s multi-million pound headquarters in Windsor Road.
Last month, Conservative councillors clashed with the ruling Labour administration over its 2022/23 budget with Tory leader Dexter Smith describing it as a ‘leap in the dark’.
He said the goal of trying to find approximately £140 million in cuts by 2029 sounded like ‘Mission Impossible’ and said the borough’s most vulnerable residents would be hit hardest by tax rises.
A statement said: “Labour are in denial about the council bankruptcy last year - the council leader didn't even mention it in his letter which came with your council tax demand, although he mentioned coronavirus numerous times.
“The Conservatives don't have any pet projects and ivory towers to defend.
“We would start by selling the council's new £50 million luxury HQ instead of leasing out three of the five floors as they now propose.”
The statement added: “A third of Slough Council's income goes in paying for Labour's borrowing at UK record levels.
“Slough Labour plan to cut £20m from the council budget each year until 2029, impacting on local services like adult social care and bin collections.”
Slough Liberal Democrats
The Slough Liberal Democrats are calling on the ruling Labour council to recognise its ‘unprecedented failure’ in handling its finances and engage in a new era of co-operation.
The Lib Dems currently have no elected representatives on the council but will be contesting wards in Cippenham Meadows, Elliman, Upton and Haymill and Lynch Hill.
The party has accused Labour councillors of ‘recklessness’ in allowing the local authority to engage in uncontrolled borrowing and spending which has seen the council’s debts rise to more than £750million.
It now wants to see improved consultation, co-operation and counting from the ruling Labour group.
Matthew Taylor (left), is standing in Cippenham Meadows
A Slough Lib Dems spokesman said: “Slough is facing some major long-standing challenges, many of which have been made worse during the coronavirus pandemic and now by the Labour-run council’s financial crisis.
“Challenges for recovery include funding and staff shortages in health and wellbeing services, knife crime and anti-social behaviour, environmental threats and poor air quality.”
The party also pointed to a shortage of affordable housing and said it wants to address the decline of Slough town centre.
The Liberal Democrats want to see more consultation with the community and pointed to the council’s decision to introduce a bus lane on the A4 Bath Road before talking to residents as an example of poor communication.
More honesty is needed from the ruling-Labour group about the scale of the council’s financial position, the Liberal Democrats added.
The local authority estimates it will need to make £20million of savings per year until 2028/29.
The opposition group has hit out at the ‘long-standing failures’ of Labour’s leadership.
East Berkshire Green Party
The climate and environment emergency has been described as the key issue all politicians must address by the East Berkshire Green Party.
The political group will be fielding candidates in Chalvey, Langley Kedermister and Langley St Mary’s at next Thursday's local elections.
The Green Party said local authorities, like national governments, must focus on addressing environmental issues while continuing to care for their constituents.
It has pledged to hold Slough Borough Council to account on its declared goal of achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2030.
If elected, the group said its councillors will work to ensure all new and converted buildings in Slough are carbon neutral.
It also wants to ensure charging points for electric vehicles are widely available and all council and school buildings have energy supplies from sustainable sources.
A statement added: “Slough's financial crisis, due to mismanagement by the Labour-run council, is severely constraining spending in the borough and many vital organisations have had funding support cut, with Slough citizens in most need suffering the most.
“Focus on environmental issues and targets for zero emissions has also declined, even though these are the biggest problems facing all communities.
“The financial crisis must not become an excuse for neglecting the needs of the poor and the planet.”
The Green Party said it wants to improve consultation with residents and claimed decisions should never be taken by the council before speaking to residents first.
The party wants to speak to residents about climate issues to get their views on what a net zero carbon emissions community could look like.
A selection of independent candidates will be standing in the upcoming local elections in Slough.
Tom King will be running as an independent in Slough Central and Jibril Hassan will contest the seat in Langley St Mary’s as an Independent Network candidate.
Dawinderpal Sahota is standing as an independent in Langley Kedermister.
Meanwhile, Nick Smith will stand for the Heritage Party in Cippenham Green.
Planning permission for 200 new homes on the outskirts of Hurst have been declined by Wokingham Borough Council.