Thu, 15
10 °C
Fri, 16
11 °C
Sat, 17
12 °C

Viewpoint: Windsor and Maidenhead's budget and A308 cycling

Featuring discussion on the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead budget, pavement cycling on the A308 and COVID-19 lockdown easing targets.

Pavement cycle paths a danger to everyone

I’ve read Chris Locke’s letter (Viewpoint, February 11) with some dismay.

Here’s another driver who just wants to get cyclists off the road.

It’s great to hear that he saw 14 cyclists on the A308 in one drive.

I will declare my hand as a long-term cyclist of some 62 years. I have been involved with cycle racing with various clubs and coaching since 2003.

I am still a coach and still ride.

I have used the A308 on occasion and am not aware of any cycle path.

There is a pavement and if this has been designated as a cycle path it should not have been.

Cycle paths on pavements are dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians alike.

There isn’t usually room for both and for a cyclist used to traveling at a steady speed of 16-20mph the side roads that break across the pavement forcing one to stop or give way are dangerous and inconvenient, as are pedestrians who tend not to look where they are going and expect cyclists to get back on the road.

I’m sure you also have many letters complaining about cyclists on pavements.

So cyclists cant win, both drivers and pedestrian want us out of their way.

If the council plans to create cycle paths they must not do it by designating pavements as such.

What is needed is a marked lane at least one metre wide, preferably more and not less, on all roads.

If it narrows the road for drivers it will have the benefit of slowing them down and I see there is a proposal for the A308 to have its speed limit dropped from 40-30mph anyway.

I will agree with Chris Locke in that the council spending money in this way on cycle lanes that are really just pavements is wasteful.

But of course the council never asked me.

There is a cycle forum I remember. I attended it for a while as secretary of a local cycle club but it was pointless, nobody listened.

Unfortunately there are two kinds of cyclists on the road.

Those who some choose to call Lycra Louts or MAMALS are usually in fact

very experienced club riders who are wearing the correct kit for efficiency and comfort. They are skilful, fast and know what they are doing. They are perfectly safe as long as the motorists behave themselves.

There are also those we might call ‘pedestrians on wheels’ – ordinary folk who simply use a bike for short distance transport, shopping or commuting wearing ordinary clothes.

They are often on pavements and I’ve seen them move from pavement to road without glancing behind, one very nearly causing an accident with me by dropping into the road as I was cycling up behind him on the road. Some of them can be very dangerous.

I’m happy to ride on the road at all times.

I feel safe there, it’s the drivers who might knock me down who are dangerous and I’ve got used to watching out for them.

I don’t need the council to spend money on cycle lanes for me, perhaps the ‘pedestrians on wheels’ do, but that needs to be done properly so they can ride safely on the road.

JOHN PERCY

Highway Road

Maidenhead


A308 cycle path only good for going 10mph

A correspondent last week remarked on the absence of cyclists from the A308 Maidenhead to Windsor cycle path. As an older but regular cyclist who has used this path several times in recent weeks I would like to suggest why the road is frequently used in preference to the cycle path.

This path is adequate for cycling up to about 10 miles per hour, enough for me, but parts are so uneven that it is unsuitable, indeed probably dangerous, at any faster speed.

Anyone with a decent bike who wants to get a move on will find this half-hearted token gesture of a cycle path simply not good enough.

If taxpayers’ money is to be spent on cycle paths – and it should be – they should be built properly.

It is also worth pointing out that this cycle path shares the pavement with pedestrians and is in places quite narrow. At a time of social distancing it is not unreasonable to expect cyclists to return to the roadway when passing pedestrians at these points.

ROBERT EDMONDS

Powney Road

Maidenhead


Council fails to act on cycle path obstruction

I’d like to offer some reasons why some cyclists do not like using the cycle path along the A308.

I for one do use it as I think it's normally less dangerous than cycling on this road.

The pavement, which was built many years ago and paid for by rate payers for the public (pedestrians and cyclists) to use, is full of obstructions which RBWM choose not to deal with, despite the fact that the 1980 Highways Act says that the full width of the pavement/cycle path must be clear of all obstructions (brambles, trees, vegetation etc) to a height of 2.3 metres and that the local authority has a duty to enforce it.

In the winter, one has to be careful of face and eye damage, and in summer there is the added risk of brambles scratching arms.

These obstructions have been reported many times, with location and photographs.

Their written response has included ‘we know about it and it is private property and we don’t like to issue enforcement notices but prefer to negotiate’.

The obstacles remain.

There are a few instances where overgrown vegetation is such that to get past it, a cyclist is that near the kerb that they are overhanging the kerb into busy carriageway.

Of course this isn’t the only pavement in Maidenhead to suffer ‘restricted use’.

There is a recent example along the A308 pavement / cycle path, which is a danger to both pedestrians and cyclists but the response from RBWM was ‘our inspector has inspected it and deem it to be safe’.

I have visited other local authorities and used their cycle paths and where I have reported problems, (in a similar way), and they are normally dealt with fairly promptly.

JOHN PAYNE

Walker Road

Maidenhead


Credible plan to deliver balanced budgets

Only the Conservatives have a credible plan when it comes to securing the long-term financial future of the council, maintaining key services and ensuring we all benefit from the post-pandemic recovery

Next week we will see the council debate and vote upon arguably one of the most difficult budgets in a generation – a budget devised during the most challenging period for public finances since the Second World War.

Yet despite the negative predictions of some, we are in a far stronger position than many would care to admit.

Yes, this proposed budget contains difficult decisions.

It has been largely shaped by the circumstances we find ourselves in and by the need to meet the legal duty to balance.

Last year we proposed a budget which was tough, took difficult decisions to reset the council’s finances and laid out a medium-term financial approach to guide us.

That budget would have seen us deliver a surplus at the end of this financial year which would have been put back into reserves to bolster our position, and savings to balance future years’ budgets would largely have been delivered as part of our transformation agenda.

However, that was not to be.

Whilst we are still on course to finish with a strong surplus, that will now be largely used to offset the enduring impact of COVID-19.

Had we not had the surplus then undoubtedly we would have been forced to make additional further spending reductions.

Of course, many would say that the council was in financial difficulty prior to COVID.

That is in part true, however, as demonstrated last year we had a credible plan to meet the challenge of delivering balanced budgets, investing in services, and building up our reserves.

That remains the plan, though that challenge has intensified because of the pandemic.

However, we have risen to meet that challenge and are the only ones to be recommending to a fully costed, consulted and balanced budget which continues to see investment in key areas, yet retains our status as having one of the lowest levels of council tax in England.

Sadly the opposition have offered very little in terms of genuine alternatives we would support.

It is a budget where for the first time in many years we have proposed a draft, consulted upon it, and made meaningful changes as a result.

It is a budget driven by the need to secure the council’s financial position as well as continue to deliver critical services.

It is a budget which maps out the long-term future of the Royal Borough.

It is a budget which supports our commitment to tackling climate change.

It is a budget which keeps our taxes hundreds of pounds below neighbouring areas.

Of course, next week there will be disagreements and different opinions.

However, there should not be opposition for opposition’s sake.

Genuine alternatives must be presented and debated before we come to make the final decision.

Irrespective of the final vote we all need to support whatever measures are agreed and to end the tide of negativity being promoting in some quarters.

We as elected members have a duty during times of crisis to collectively work together, but also to strive to promote the Royal Borough’s interests as we enter the new post-pandemic world.

Cllr ANDREW JOHNSON

Leader of the Council


Less spin, more transparency please

On Tuesday, the RBWM budget will be discussed.

Last year we heard the new leader of the council herald in a new era of transparency and collegiate working putting aside the ‘spin’ associated with his predecessor.

We have been continually told by the Conservative administration, over the last six weeks, that ‘if it weren’t for COVID’ we would be in a much better place and what a wonderful success their financial strategy has been in 2020/21 with a £3m underspend.

This is SPIN.

The council has been less affected by COVID than many other councils and central Government has fully compensated RBWM for both costs and income losses for the financial year (COVID neutral).

There has also been reductions in costs due to lockdown, yet we are told that we need to cut £20million from the budget over the next five years despite increasing council tax by the maximum allowed.

In the recently published budget report it states ‘unlike many other councils, low levels of reserves and the lowest council tax in the country outside London, coupled with increasing levels of borrowing, have made the RBWM financial position more challenging’.

We are in this situation because decisions were taken with a nod to publicity, the votes it would generate and the hope that selling assets would pay off the borrowing.

There was no consideration as to the medium to long term effect on the council, services provided and residents.

The constantly promised Oaks Leisure Centre and the support for the Thames Flood Scheme have disappeared from the capital programme, currently our only financial strategy is to increase reserves but that is impossible given the borough’s current financial situation.

We are seeing cuts to day centres, arts centres, community programmes, libraries, bin collections, youth services, council tax discounts, resident parking discount, community wardens, planters/flowers and increased charges for parking permits, green waste and services to schools.

More severe cuts are to follow...and they call this success.

Nothing has changed, the same culture persists. It’s time for true transparency and being honest with the electorate.

Ditch the SPIN.

Cllr LYNNE JONES

Leader – Local Independents


Cost of COVID-19 must be factored into budget

I can understand residents wondering why the forthcoming budget 21/22 brings with it difficult decisions when RBWM is set to have delivered a surplus on the budget 20/21 of more than £3million.

Why not use the £3million to avoid making further difficult decisions, many ask?

The answer is surprisingly simple; this year Government lived up to their word and compensated the council for the increased cost of managing the COVID-19 pandemic as well as about 70 per cent of lost income from our leisure centres and car parks.

So COVID-19 has had a neutral effect on this year’s budget and RBWM’s remarkable officer team delivered critical transformation programmes in the midst of a global pandemic to ensure our services are returned to long-term financial sustainability.

Both of these have contributed to the £3million surplus in budget 20/21.

The budget in 2021/22 will be different.

COVID-19 will still be with us and will need to be managed, restrictions on our lives will continue and income from car parking, leisure and commercial properties will be down.

We estimate the cost of COVID-19 alone next year will be a massive £9.25 million but expect government to provide just £6 million to support this shortfall leaving a £3million gap.

The council is required by law to deliver a budget where expenditure and income match and this year’s savings will be used to bridge that gap.

Any alternative would mean Government stepping in and making these decisions for us.

By taking and delivering difficult decision this year, we will have successfully put RBWM's finances back on a sustainable footing and delivered much-need and long-overdue transformation of key frontline services.

The last two years have been tough but by taking these difficult decisions we are now in a position to support the local economic recovery and help our most vulnerable.

Cllr DAVID HILTON

Lead member for finance and Ascot


Government using kids as political footballs

I was surprised to read Cllr Carroll's letter (Viewpoint, February 4).

I understand his point; it is so important to recognise that children, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, are not a political football.

Indeed, as someone who had free schools meals as a child I most wholeheartedly agree with that sentiment.

However my disappointment in the councillor is largely brought to bear by the idea that he feels children should be separated from politics by a party locally whilst belonging to a national party that seems currently to be doing the very opposite.

What’s worse is his insistence in taking this stand not because it is morally right but because it is politically opportune (locally) to do so.

All at a time when families are experiencing hardship, unemployment, cuts and welfare crises more than ever.

ELIZABETH JONES

Dedworth Road

Windsor


Please don’t fall for plastic recycling myths

As plastic pollution campaigners, and custodians of Windsor’s relationship with Refill (a campaign run by the plastic pollution charity City to Sea), we at Plastic Free Windsor greatly appreciated Dr Adrian Doble’s letter (Viewpoint, January 14) regarding the sale of water in plastic bottles.

We completely agree with his message – that in a time of environmental crisis, and with tap water that is safe to drink, the UK cannot justify the sale of 4,000 million bottles of water every year.

In his response (Viewpoint, February 11), Anthony Walker agrees that both tap water and natural source water are safe to drink. However, I would point out that the effects on human health of microplastics from water packaged in plastic are currently unknown.

More concerning though, is the fact that Mr Walker, perhaps unknowingly, perpetuates the plastic industry’s own lazy, flawed and self-serving myth about recycling – that it’s ok to routinely buy products in single-use plastic packaging because it can be recycled.

In September 2020, NPR, an independent, non-profit, American media organisation, published a story on its website by Laura Sullivan titled ‘How Big Oil Misled The Public Into Believing Plastic Would Be Recycled’.

The story was the result of a joint investigation with Public Broadcasting Service, America’s largest public media enterprise, which also resulted in the PBS documentary Plastic Wars.

The investigation found that the oil industry has, for years, been selling the public the idea that the majority of plastic could and would be recycled.

In fact, the industry knew as far back as 1974, that due to the high cost of recycling, and degradation each time it is reused, recycling wouldn’t keep plastic out of landfill and the environment.

The advertising campaign, to promote the recyclability of plastic in order to actively counter the growing public concern about plastic waste and thereby maintain and grow sales of new plastic, began in the late 1980s.

Unfortunately it has been very successful.

Plastic makes $400 billion per year for the oil industry, which has spent tens of millions of dollars on advertising to perpetuate the recyclability myth.

Please don’t fall for it.

Take Dr Doble’s advice and drink tap water from a refillable bottle.

PAUL HINTON

Plastic Free Windsor


Targets, test and trace needed to ease lockdown

We do not need a date for the ending of lockdown, we need a positive TARGET to be met for ending lockdown. We have already had two previous lockdowns and we are now in the third lockdown.

Rather than a date to end lockdown, I believe it would be better to have a target, and when that target is reached, lockdown will be ended, but brought back in if the target is breached.

Targets could easily be in regional areas.

But we also need the test and trace system so that we can trace where outbreaks occur, financial support for closed business’s and for self-isolation.

New Zealand has a population of 5 million but only 2,330 cases and 25 COVID-19 related deaths.

This compares with RBWM with a population of 151,000 and 7,804 cases and 258 deaths.

New Zealand has been very strong test and trace and border control.

And, having just discovered three new cases of COVID-19, it has announced a lockdown for three days in New Zealand’s largest city, with a population of 1.7 million residents.

So with targets and test and trace we should be able to see lockdown eased soon.

I cannot wait!

BRUCE ADAMS

Cox Green Lane

Maidenhead


Residents can choose their parking scheme

There has been a lot of misinformation circulating as to the RBWM parking policy around the future of the self administered residents’ parking schemes.

In the 2020/21 budget, RBWM reintroduced charges for RBWM administered residents parking scheme permits and visitor vouchers but the self administered schemes in the borough (those run by residents but enforced by RBWM) were given a year’s grace, to decide whether they wished to continue.

All self-administered parking schemes were set up at the request of residents and as such they can choose how they wish to continue from April 2021.

They can choose to revert to a standard RBWM scheme or they can choose to carry on EXACTLY as they are, with the only change being that they will have to pay for any permits or visitor vouchers they require (as the rest of the resident parking schemes do).

If they do not want either of these options, residents can choose to cancel the scheme and revert to unrestricted parking .

Residents’ parking schemes are provided for the residents, at the request of residents and therefore they will normally only be withdrawn, at their request.

I hope this will reassure residents that we are listening to their wishes and they can choose what resident parking scheme they wish for their road.

Cllr DAVID CANNON

Royal Borough lead member for public protection and parking


How have community wardens helped you?

The RBWM community wardens do a fantastic job, helping residents across the Royal Borough and I am keen to celebrate their work by asking residents how the community wardens have helped you or people you know directly or indirectly.

Please email cllr.davey@rbwm.gov.uk

Cllr JON DAVEY

WWRA, Clewer & Dedworth west

Leave your comment

Share your opinions on

Characters left: 1500

Editor's Picks

Most read

Top Ten Articles