Wokingham Borough Council has launched a consultation seeking your views on proposed changes to its Code of Conduct for its borough councillors.
When you vote for local councillors you place the successful candidates in positions of responsibility and trust, and the code sets out the behaviours expected of them to maintain this.
These councillor behaviours are known as the Seven Principles of Public Life which are selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership.
Elected councillors should act with integrity and honesty, treat people with civility and impartiality, avoid conflicts of interest and ensure public resources are used prudently in the public interest. The code also sets out the process they should follow to register and declare their financial and other interests. It also states they must not do anything which may cause their council to breach any of the provisions of the 2010 Equality Act.
The code also covers elected members in town and parish councils.
The Committee on Standards in Public Life (CSPL) publishes a set of best practice principles for standards in local government and recommends local authorities carry out an annual consultation on their Codes of Conduct as part of this. These principles are set out in the borough’s consultation together with a summary of Wokingham Borough Council’s current Code of Conduct alongside the proposed changes to this code.
“We welcome your overall views on the Code of Conduct as well as your specific views on the proposed changes,” said Andrew Moulton, assistant director for governance at Wokingham Borough Council. “The role of councillor in all tiers of local government is a vital part of our country’s system of democracy.
The closing date for the consultation is 23.59pm on 11 December. You can access the consultation on our website and respond to it by emailing email@example.com or by post to Democratic Services, Wokingham Borough Council, PO Box 151, Shute End, Wokingham RG40 1WH. If you cannot access the consultation online you can also email Neil Carr for a paper version.
The causes and effects of low income are wide ranging and damage standards of living and accessibility to health and wellbeing – in particular mental health and social inclusion.
Poverty level trends are driven by changes in the employment rate, earnings, benefits and other income such as pensions, and housing costs. Although these factors cannot always be influenced locally, and they might be restricted by central government policy, local council knowledge of its residents is crucial knowing where best to target support.
Depending on what definition of poverty is used – whether based on before or after housing costs are taken into account – the Wokingham Borough has consistently been one of the least deprived unitary authority areas in England (ranking least deprived in 2019 Indices of Multiple Deprivation). But people and families on low incomes do exist in the borough so the council has a number of measures in place to ensure the borough’s opportunities can be accessed by everyone.
“Regardless of whatever statutory benchmark used to analyse poverty levels across the borough, Wokingham is one of the lowest in the country. But that doesn’t mean we’re complacent. It is certainly not okay,” said John Halsall, leader of the council.
“Even if one person or one child does not have fair and equal opportunity in our borough, that is one too many. We already have a wide net of support for low income families and are introducing even more. We’ll be discussing our approach to our Anti-Poverty Strategy, which will encompass all of these, at a forthcoming Executive meeting.”
In response to the pandemic, Wokingham Borough Council and its partner organisations have implemented a number of interventions including:
Flexible repayment plans for Council Tax and distributing the Council Tax Hardship Fund
Financial support to eligible providers within the voluntary and community sector through the service sustainability fund
£20m in Business Support grants and £20m of other reliefs
Extending funding to ‘One front door’ via Citizens Advice Wokingham giving struggling residents a single point for help and advice on unemployment debt, statutory sick pay/ benefits, mental health and wellbeing, and prescription collections or shopping service if they’re self-isolating
Supporting residents via the community engagement team including referrals to other local organisations that focus on hardship
Support for council tenants via the tenancy sustainment team
Supporting rough sleepers into accommodation through the ‘All In’ policy
The effects of the pandemic on the borough are a moving target, and as such the council and its partners must develop responses to tackle them. New measures include the following:
Eco-Flex and Green Home Grants schemes to alleviate fuel poverty
Temporary accommodation for rough sleepers to March 2021
A private rented sector access fund
A rough sleeper programme including homes designed with wraparound support to help them
Enhanced mental health support
Influence economic recovery via economic renewal recovery and a business task force
Actions through the Berkshire Recovery Group Hardship workstream
A full time debt management worker
“Wokingham Borough is one of the best places to live and work in the UK,” said John Halsall, “and as such what poverty we do have, it has no place in the borough. We are unswerving in our mission to fight and work with our partners to drive up the living standards and drive out poverty for all our residents.”
This November will see Wokingham Borough Council launch a review of the single person’s council tax discount to ensure those receiving the discount remain entitled to claim.
Currently received by over 18,000 people in the borough, the discount sees those living alone receive a 25% reduction on their council tax bill to reflect the reduced draw they have on local services compared to larger households.
“Over the past year there have been lots of changes to local households as well as increasing pressure on budgets. As such we felt it was time to review the single persons discount and make sure our records are up-to-date.” Said Cllr John Kaiser, executive member for finance and housing “Council tax income is critical to fund essential services which benefit all our residents so it’s important we make sure households contribute their fair share.”
Over the coming months the council will be working with Northgate Public Services to carry out residency checks on households that currently receive the discount. These will establish if they are still entitled to receive it or if further investigation is required.
A previous single person discount review identified a number of households incorrectly applying for reductions allowing over £450,000 in additional council tax to be collected each year.
Cllr Kaiser continued: “The majority of those claiming the single persons discount remain entitled to it and will be completely unaffected by this review. However there are a small minority of cases where personal circumstances have changed, such as where a lodger or a partner have moved in, and the household may not realise they can no longer claim.
“We also believe that there are residents living alone, whether from a recent change or longer term, who may not be aware of the discount and that they could be receiving several hundred pounds off their bill each year. Whilst these individuals won’t be identified through the review, as it only looks at those already claiming, we are keen to see them apply.
“I’d urge any council tax payer who know their circumstances have changed, or who are unsure if they may be eligible, to get in contact with the council to discuss. If their concern is a financial one our team are team are always happy to discuss options and there may be other discounts that the household qualifies for instead.”
Changes to circumstances that impact on a households eligibility for a single person discount (or any other council tax discount) need to be notified to the council within 21 days.
Any resident who thinks they may no longer be entitled to a council tax discount should contact: Wokingham Borough Council on 0118 974 6000 or email Ctax@wokingham.gov.uk
It is with great sadness that we announce that Councillor John MacNaught passed away last week.
John was first elected to Woodley Town Council in 2015, when he first stood for election in South Lake South Ward. He followed this up in 2019, when he was elected to the Town Council in his home area of Coronation East Ward.
John was on several committees, including the Town Council’s Planning & Community Committee. He also was an active member of Readibus and the Woodley Volunteer Centre on behalf of the Town Council.
Town Council leader Cllr Keith Baker said: “Woodley residents have lost a very special person in John. Someone who was passionate in everything he did but always shaped by the compassionate and caring attitude that was deeply embedded in his character. Speaking personally, I have lost a very special friend who was always there when you needed help. A perfect gentleman in every way. May he rest in peace and our thoughts are with his family, especially his son and daughter.”
The £4.4million new Addington School building has been officially opened.
Wokingham Borough Mayor Cllr Malcolm Richards and executive member for children’s services Cllr UllaKarin Clark cut the ribbon with headteacher Sara Attra at the school to declare the building officially open, with the expansion allowing 50 more pupils to attend the Ofsted-rated outstanding school in Woodley.
Cllr Richards gave a short speech to declare the building open and the guests were given a COVID-19 safe tour of the building by two students and the Headteacher. The opening was recorded on video to be shown to the rest of the school community.
“I was delighted to be able to visit the fantastic new building and receive the tour where students and Mrs Attra explained the real-world benefits of this project and how it’s helping young people in our borough,” he said.
More young people will access the best SEND education possible in Wokingham borough at the school in Woodlands Avenue, with the school’s capacity now at around 250 students. It means more young people will be educated closer to home, making families’ lives easier by reducing journey times, as well as reducing the council’s travel costs.
Construction of the new block follows the opening of two new multi-use games areas (MUGAs), a new sensory path and an expanded car park at the end of September 2019.
Thirty-five of the 50 new places have already been filled from September 2020, with the rest of the additional places due to be taken from next September. The new places have helped accommodate a new year seven class and an Early Years class, with two additional classes when the new school year starts in autumn 2021.
‘An excellent addition’
“The new sixth form building at Addington school is an excellent addition to the school’s provision,” Mrs Attra said. “Its use is twofold, firstly to provide a new excellent teaching and learning environment for our 16-19 year olds and secondly to provide space in our old building for an extra 50 special school places.
“These additional places will enable more children and young people with learning difficulties living in Wokingham to attend a local special school. Our sixth formers and staff have settled extremely well in to the new building and are enjoying using the additional facilities such as the teaching cafe, teaching kitchen and business enterprise room which have greatly enhanced our vocational curriculum.
“Our students have told us how happy they are with their new facilities and in particular the more age appropriate environment and are looking forward to developing the cafe as an enterprise project in the future.”
“This fantastic building has allowed us to increase places at Addington and it means we can help make the lives of an additional 50 young people and their families easier by offering them a place in an outstanding local school,” said Cllr Clark. “The range of facilities on offer will allow students to learn life skills, as well as providing a social space and standard classrooms.”
Green construction methods
The construction was completed by modular construction specialists Reds10, alongside our design partners HLM Architects. Seventy per cent of the building work for the new block was completed modularly offsite, a decision made to reduce disruption to the school and its students, and for its environmental benefits.
This method reduces the number of vehicle trips required and cuts down on the amount of waste produced as part of the project compared to traditional construction, which helps Wokingham Borough Council towards its goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2030.
Claire Wakelin, Studio Director at HLM Architects, added: “We couldn’t be more pleased to have played our part in the successful delivery of the Addington SEN School expansion. Through our growing experience in offsite construction, and working closely with Reds10, we have been able to push the boundaries of design often associated with modern methods of construction.
“Pupils will now be able to learn, develop and thrive in a safe and nurturing educational environment that has been designed to help them reach their true potential. This school not only benefits its users, but also the wider community, strengthening the spectrum of opportunity by providing enhanced access to high quality learning.”
Michael Ruddick, Director at Reds10, summed up: “Constructing the School’s extension offsite meant that we were able to deliver the project more quickly, under safer, more controlled conditions and with less disruption to the local community.
“However, what we are really proud of was producing a building that contributes to the Council’s commitment to be carbon neutral by 2030, while also providing a modular space, which is stunning to look at, fits with its surroundings and fit for purpose. Our entire team is pleased to have been part of the project alongside our partners HLM Architects and Wokingham Council and we look forward to future projects together.”
The number of Covid-19 cases in our borough is increasing, as it is just about everywhere in the country.
In response to this increase, Wokingham Borough Council is launching our ‘In It Together’ campaign to help everybody keep to the Covid-19 rules and slow the spread of infection. The campaign will focus on how the borough council and its partners are working together to reduce the impact of Covid-19 and how everybody can play a part in this.
Leader of Wokingham Borough Council John Halsall said: “Wokingham Borough Council has been proactive to protect its residents throughout the crisis and our communities and schools have responded magnificently to the challenge Covid-19 has brought. However, we face a threat that is not going away, in fact, it is increasing in our borough as it is elsewhere and so we will re-double our efforts and are calling on all residents to do the same: we are all in this together.”
Since the pandemic began, Wokingham Borough Council has:
Sourced its own PPE supplies when the national supply was failing
Published the most accurate and comprehensive data on outbreaks available every week
Bought an emergency supply of testing kits for use in emergency circumstances if necessary
Launched a self-isolation payment scheme to help those eligible people who cannot earn money when told to isolate
Worked closely with schools to help them re-open and remain open as safely as possible
Stepped up to deliver local contact tracing to support the NHS Test and Trace service (the first authority in Berkshire to volunteer to do so)
Worked with businesses to help them operate safely (and acted when they did not follow rules)
As the number of cases rises again, the borough council is working with partners in the voluntary sector to keep the Wokingham Borough Community Response up and running to help those most vulnerable. The council is also writing to those people who were shielded in the spring in order to make sure they have the latest guidance.
The borough council has worked hard with local partners to ensure there are testing sites locally available whenever possible, with units coming to at Cantley Park in Wokingham and Prospect Park in Reading. Tests can be booked via the national website https://www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test.
A mobile testing unit will be located at Cantley Park on October 22 and November 13, 21 and 27. Attendance at the site will be via appointment/booking only and tests can be booked via the national website https://www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test.
Testing site availability/booking slots are allocated the day before for morning appointments or in the morning for same day afternoon appointments. If appointments are available at local testing sites they will show up when booking a Covid test via the .gov.uk website. If no local appointments are available you may be able to book a home testing kit, or find a booking at a nearby regional testing unit (Newbury and Slough).
Cllr Halsall added: “If we all can change our behaviour and observe the rules as a matter of course we may avoid the worst. I am asking everyone to be an evangelist for these rules. In essence the virus is spread through social contact, the more you minimise social contact the less the virus will spread.
“The effort to control Covid-19 and support the vulnerable in the borough has been phenomenal. But the numbers are going up and there are still some people who are not following the rules – and I have to say that they are putting others at greater risk. We must all stick together in this – keep to the social distancing rules and, if you have to isolate, please do so.”
The Council and the Public Protection Partnership (PPP) would like to ask residents if they are holding their own bonfire night celebrations during the period around bonfire night to please:
Be observant of Covid restrictions – remember the ‘Rule of 6’, social distancing and ‘Hands – Face – Space’
Remember that bonfires and fireworks may cause a nuisance to your neighbours and we encourage you, out of courtesy, to discuss your plans
Bonfires burning damp materials will cause excess smoke
Make sure you are not burning pollutants such as plastics
There is a risk that bonfires may get out of control and put excess pressure on emergency services – follow guidance from Royal Berkshire Fire & Rescue service regarding taking precautions
Multiple fireworks, going off over a longer period of time, may frighten and stress local pets and animals. Look out for fireworks labelled ‘low noise/silent’. Please talk to neighbours with pets to let them know your plans
If you’ve a pet who gets distressed during the firework ‘season’ see link here from PPP Animal Warden team
Fireworks should not be let off in public places such as a park or your street
If you are setting off fireworks in your garden make sure your garden is big enough for the type of firework and that you follow the safety instructions and the firework code.
If you are unsure what it legally allowed, in general terms, on Bonfire Night, see link here from Thames Valley Police.
Current guidelines on gatherings under COVID restrictions see link here.
The Public Protection Partnership (PPP) is a shared service delivering Environmental Health, Licensing and Trading Standards to over 450,000 people and 10,000 businesses on behalf of three authorities (Partners), Bracknell Forest Council, West Berkshire Council and Wokingham Borough Council.
These services encompass a wide range of areas of responsibility from environmental protection to fair trading, food safety to animal health, housing standards to taxi licensing, and more.
Works will be carried out to the poplar trees along the boundary between Woodford Park and St Dominics School during the half term week (26-30 October).
This will involve the felling of some of these trees that have become rotten and present a danger to the public. Works will be carried out by qualified tree surgeon. The footpath will be temporarily re-routed while the works are carried out and we apologise for any inconvenience caused.
The Town Council will be replacing trees and hedge plants in this and other areas of the park with 165 saplings arriving in November through the Woodland Trust.
Cedar Place Almshouses, Loddon Bridge Road, Woodley
The Poor’s Land Charity has a vacancy in one of its Almshouses in Woodley on Loddon Bridge Road.
The unit is available for residents of Woodley, Sandford or Charvil aged 55 years or over. The accommodation is a self contained flat with a double bedroom, lounge, bathroom and kitchen. Large communal gardens, in addition to a laundry room, day room and guest room.
To enquire further please contact the Clerk to the Trustees, Mrs Fidler, on 0118 9690136.
Closing date for receipt of completed application: Monday 9th November 2020.
According to Keep Britain Tidy, it has been a record-breaking year as more than 2,000 green spaces across the country got the international quality mark, including Woodford Park for the third year running.
Woodley Town Council is delighted that Woodford Park will be raising a Green Flag Award for the third year running. This is particularly poignant in the current Covid 19 pandemic, when millions of people across the country have seen the value of having great quality green spaces on their doorstep.
The Green Flag Award scheme, managed by environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy under licence from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, recognises and rewards well-managed parks and green spaces, setting the benchmark standard for their management across the United Kingdom and around the world.
Woodford Park is one of more than 2,000 sites across the country to collect the award for 2020.
Town Council Leader Cllr Keith Baker is proud that Woodford Park has retained the award for the third year running, providing local residents and visitors with a spectacular green space to enjoy.
“Winning the Green Flag award for the third-year running is a great testament to the hard work of the Town Council staff and the volunteers from the Friends of Woodford Park who help maintain such a beautiful facility. This has been all the more important during the lockdown period of Covid 19, where accessing green spaces was vital for mental and physical health.
The Council is particularly proud that this is the only park in the Wokingham Borough area to have received and retained Green Flag status.”
Commenting on Woodford Park’s success, Keep Britain Tidy Chief Executive Allison Ogden-Newton OBE said: “This year, more than ever, our parks and green spaces have been a lifeline and we know that millions of people have used them to relax, meet friends, exercise or simply escape for a short time.
“It is testament to the incredible dedication and hard work of parks staff and volunteers that, despite the challenges that went along with record numbers of visitors, Woodley Town Council has achieved the highest international standards for Woodford park, demanded by the Green Flag Award.”
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