Councillors respond to our reporter's questions on developer funding decision

Councillors respond to our reporter's questions on developer funding decision

Councillors respond to our reporter's questions on developer funding decision
Holyport College

Royal Borough councillors have been responding to questions issued by the Advertiser regarding the council’s decision to award £480,000 of developer funding to Holyport College.

The school in Ascot Road was selected as the main recipient of Section 106 cash – made available through a 271-home development in Stafferton Way – at a full council meeting on Tuesday, April 28.

A campaign called ‘Fair Funding for Borough Schools’ was launched in response to the decision, which submitted a petition signed by more than 1,600 people to have the decision revoked. This was voted against, however, at a full council meeting on Tuesday, July 28.

Advertiser reporter Tom Roddy sent two questions to each councillor on Wednesday, August 12, asking:

1. Did the RBWM make the right decision in awarding £480,000 of S106 money to Holyport College?

2. Are you happy with the decision-making process?

Here are the full responses from councillors, as they were written, so far. We will update this story as we receive more answers. 

Cllr Marius Gilmore (Con, Pinkneys Green)- ADDED AUGUST 25

"I feel that the decision I made to support the original award was the right one. Had we reversed this then there was a real risk of the private funding being lost altogether, which would mean no school in our community receiving the benefit of nearly half a million pounds. In this instance 48 children would have been deprived of a place at a school of their choice with only a matter of weeks to make alternative arrangements, which in good conscience, and as a father myself, I could not have supported.

"Whilst the original decision predates my election, I feel that the interests of the residents’ of Pinkneys Green and the wider Borough would not have been best served through reversing this decision. However, I do welcome the changes to the process that have been unanimously passed by Council, which address some of the concerns that have been raised by residents."

Cllr Charles Hollingsworth (Con, Pinkneys Green) - ADDED AUGUST 20

"I agree with everything that Lynne has written below and would add the following.

"Councillor David Evans at the previous Council meeting accurately outlined how our Council is run, not as MacMillan letting the officers run things but as Thatcher, taking the lead and actively taking decisions, so adding Holyport to the list could not have been taken by the director, but by the Lead Member, Phil Bicknell.

"Children's Services Overview and Scrutiny Panel, had secured agreement that additional funding would only go to schools that were "Good or Outstanding" as defined by OFSTED."

The response that was previously posted was incorrectly attributed to Cllr Hollingsworth. The initial post included comments made by Cllr Lynne Jones, and Cllr Hollingsworth's response was to state his complete agreement with what she said. We apologise for the error.

Cllr Lynne Jones (Old Windsor, Old Windsor Residents’ Association):

"1. The decision to assign 480k to Holyport was not taken at council (28/4/15) but was decided by persons, as yet not known, in March 2015. Holyport was informed in March  2015 that they could proceed with offering an extra 24 places (8xYear 7 & 16xYear 9 for the September 2015 entry.

"I would be surprised if the decision to assign the S106 amount was made without the knowledge of the Lead Member for Childrens Services and possibly the Lead Member for Finance given how significant the sum was.

"The decision required at Council was to add the sum of 480k to the Capital Budget, the report stated (incorrectly) that the planning application had been approved and therefore the S106 document (stating Holyport as the beneficiary of the sum) would have been legal and a 'done deal'.

"Whether it was ultimately the right decision is also not known as there has not been any detailed paper (to Scrutiny or Council) outlining the benefits (relating to providing additional school places required in Maidenhead due to the new development) in assigning the S106 amount to Holyport as opposed to another project. There has been no 'value for money' analysis provided, 48 places across the school ( but only 16 extra places ongoing per year when the school is full, of which 8 are in yr 9 with a Windsor middle school preference) for £480k.

"2. No, I am not satisfied with the decision making process and feel that the report presented to Council on the 28th April was misleading."

Cllr Jack Rankin (Con, Castle Without):

"1. Yes

2. Yes"

Leader of the council, Cllr David Burbage (Con, Bray):

"yes and yes. Weren't you at the meeting when this was agreed ?! Good luck with your story."

Cllr Edward Wilson (Con, Clewer South):

"1. Yes.   I think that if you look back a little further (Dec 2014) the Council’s Cabinet decided to expand Holyport College (and other schools) using S106 money and the Basic Needs Grant.  We are expanding secondary schools in the area to make sure that parents can have a chance of getting their children into a school of their choice. This money allowed us to do so.  If we had not funded this expansion from s106 cash it would probably have come from the Basic Needs Grant which would disadvantage many schools in the Borough that rely on this fund for repairs etc.  I don’t think that this point has come out in any of the coverage thus far?

"2. Yes.  As I say the original decision and the expansion criteria were set in December.  Opposition councillors (100% more of them than now) do not appear to have opposed or questioned the original expansion decision or the expansion criteria- not sure this has been covered either?  The decision applied the criteria set in December- none of the schools met all the criteria but  Holyport did have strong 1st preference numbers and room to expand- so too did Furze Platt Seniors who also received cash ( no mention of Furze Platt in coverage thus far?).  The council did apply their criteria, funding route and contact a number of schools in the area to see if they could accommodate this expansion cash which is what I would expect.  Oh and then the Council unanimously agreed to it- I wasn’t a councillor in April, but it did get opposition support?

"We get another 48 places at this school which helps serve the growing demand for secondary places in the Borough (including those from Stafferton Way).  It’s not a gift, bonus or windfall and it may help the dozen or so residents in my ward who have said that they have tried and failed to get their children into HC.

"On the other hand I have received one (yes one!) complaint about this from a resident who thinks that Cox Green School should have received 480k because ‘they deserved it’ and duly signed the petition.  Alas the petition would only have delivered 480k to ‘maintained schools within the vicinity of the development’.  So Cox Green would have received nothing- not in the vicinity and not a maintained school. The school like all other secondaries did in fact receive 480k in 2013 and of course has access to the 376 million Condition Improvement Fund-has this been mentioned Tom?  You may want to have a look at the number of schools in Maidenhead who received funding form this source and others too Tom.

"Lastly this decision was about expanding a school not doing up schools or repairing the plumbing (s106 cant be used for any of this).  I am 100 per cent behind helping all schools in RBWM deliver the right results for our children I don’t care who the governors are or who runs the sports dept.  83% of our schools have received S106 funding and I will continue to make sure that more do in the future."

Cllr David Evans (Con, Hurley and Walthams):

"Thank you for your e mail. I have made my position clear both in the council debate and in my letter to the Advertiser last week."

Cllr Evans' letter can be found in the Thursday, August 6, edition on page 18.

Cllr Simon Werner (Lib Dem, Pinkneys Green):

"As you know I think the answers are no and no - and that is why my motion asked for a fresh look at the process for giving out S106 money."

Cllr Werner refers to a motion to re-evaluate how the Royal Borough allocates S106 monies. This was passed at full council on Tuesday, July 28.

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