03:00PM, Friday 27 September 2019
Work on a new multi-million pound leisure centre approved by councillors earlier this month will not start until the council is confident of its finances.
The Oaks Leisure Centre is set to be built at Charters School in Sunningdale after it received planning permission.
But now, Cllr David Hilton (Con, Ascot and Sunning-hill), the cabinet member for finance, has said the £15million project – a partnership between the council and the school – will not go ahead until the borough is ‘certain’ about its finances.
“For me it is a priority but the strength of the council’s finances is the highest priority so there is much work to do before this project can be approved and I think this demonstrates my financial prudence,” he told a full council meeting in Maidenhead Town Hall on Tuesday.
“We will not proceed with this project until such time as we are absolutely certain about our financial position to do so.”
He was responding to a question by Cllr Wisdom Da Costa (Ind, Clewer and Dedworth West), who asked how it would be funded and what impact it would have on the council’s reserve finances.
The council is facing tough questions about its finances, after it was projected to overspend on this year’s budget by £4million and a public finance accounting firm sent councillors a confidential report with concerns about the borough’s money management.
Cllr Hilton also pointed out there were ‘technical issues’ to be resolved before the leisure centre fully received planning permission, with councillors on the Windsor Urban Development Management Panel having supported the plans three weeks ago.
It must be referred to the Government because it is on greenbelt land.
During the meeting, councillors also raised concerns that a proposal to expand the Windsor Town Forum to 11 seats would hand too much power to the Tories.
A number of Windsor councillors voiced concerns about the expansion, which under law must be politically balanced based on the borough’s composition – which has a slim Tory majority.
Most wards in the Windsor area are not Conservative.
However, the changes were overwhelmingly approved and the Maidenhead and Windsor town forums – council bodies that allow residents and councillors to discuss issues in their area – will expand to hold 11 councillors.
Councillors also agreed to changes to scaffolding fees, including a waiver if the constructor puts up an environmentally friendly ‘green wall’.
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