What they told the Governance Review
Unlike the submissions relating to Britwell and Wexham Court Parish Councils, contributions relating to Colnbrook with Poyle Parish Council were characterised by high passion, starkly conflicting opinions and, in some cases, slightly hysterical views that bore no bearing on parish council remit!
Far more people were consulted at both other parishes due to the Slough Labour Party conducting a survey. However, fewer direct submissions were made from groups and members of the public in both areas than even Colnbrook, suggesting a general and widespread apathy towards the parishes across the borough.
What they said about …
Britwell and Wexham Court Parish Councils Read more
In Britwell comments were made about child care, adult learning, sports facilities, the library, bar and community centre – all facilities provided by that parish. Aspirations were expressed by some that the Parish should also take over street cleaning and other services from Slough Borough Council but, in the main, respondents indicated they felt SBC could provide most services directly.
Concerns were expressed with procurement processes and the high precept.
In Wexham Court services provided by the Parish Council include grass verge protection, tennis courts, play areas, allotments, and bowling, as well as the village hall (which, as with Britwell, is currently actively managed and maintained by the Parish Council). However, survey results overwhelmingly indicated that most residents did not know what services were available and did not use what was on offer.
Personality clashes at both parishes interfered with progress and both highlighted issues with the Clerk – particularly a lack of control over the clerk and politicisation of the role. Communication was a big issue at both.
Colnbrook with Poyle Parish Council Read more
But back to Colnbrook, what did contributions here focus on?
Well there was universal agreement that the Parish did a good job in laying on hanging baskets, and Christmas lights (despite last year’s problems).
There was some congratulation for the Parish for the installation of Victorian lampposts some years ago.
But little agreement beyond that.
Some members of the public felt more power should be given to the Parish but did not specify what.
Others focused on how bad things were in the 80’s when Colnbrook was apparently a crime blackspot. The funding of the PCSOs was generally held up as a success, but the Parish Council was slated for its lack of consultation over the contract.
Those organisations that wrote in lavished praise on their established relationships with the Parish – as well as the funding provided to them by the Parish Council.
Unlike Britwell and Wexham, comments of a negative nature tended to focus less on the quality of specific services the provided, and more on conduct, attitude and level of engagement of councillors.
Most positive comments focused, at least in part, on achievements of other groups such as the Colnbrook Community Partnership or the reformed Colnbrook Residents’ Association.
There were calls from nearly half for abolition and predictions of doom from others if the Parish Council was abolished:
“To take the Parish Council away from us will be a complete disaster … Please, they must stay”.
And one even resorted to attacking Slough Borough Council for spending money on a review when they should be spending the money on illegal immigrants and helping “frightened and ashamed” old people. That full rant is below for those interested.
Who said what …
Expand the sections below to see highlights from the submissions made.
Members of the public Read more
While few members of the public contributed to the review here are a selection of the typical and the more striking:
“The precept is spent wisely for the good of the community, with hanging baskets in the summer and Christmas lights which add to the well being of all. The parks are kept to a high standard of safety for children to enjoy.”
“They represent villagers views on a non political basis to the main council.”
“Rather than diminish some of the Parish council responsibilities, more power should be given to it to sort out local requirements.”
“I can remember the ‘glorious 80s’ when the only police presence through Colnbrook ws the occasional Met police car, on blue lights, racing through from Heathrow to join a chase on the M4 … Burglary, drug and violent crime was 4-5 times greater than we see now, inflicted on a population of probably half of today’s figure.”
“Too much to put in writing, but just a few facts. They have installed in the Village beautiful Victorian lamp posts. They give us flowers all Summer long, baskets around the lamp posts, on top of Bus shelters and other places …”
“To take the Parish Council away from us will be a complete disaster … Please, they must stay …”
“Sir, could you please explain to me, why you are wasting my Council Tax money, by interfering in Colnbrook resedents lives, who work well with the Parish Council. No grievance here. My grievance is with SBC, they should be spending the money on their real problems. The illegal immigrates, find out why they are handing out large amounts of money on people who do not work. Housing/living allowance etc … You are keeping them in their luxury life style, compared to some poor old pensioner, who is too frightened or too ashamed, even too proud to ask for some help…”
“They supply flowers in the spring, which are an absolute joy all through the summer, Christmas time we have trees and lights.”
“… I definitely do not want any changes “whatsoever” to our band of super!! Councillors ….”
“… the Parish Council was not being run democratically. Meetings of 3 or 4 people (Chair, Vice-Chair and Clerk etc) took place before every Parish Council meeting to decide how the meeting was to be run and what decisions should be taken by the PC … that were then rubber stamped at the meeting.”
“[The Parish Council] needs new blood and yet when new parish councillors were elected recently the existing councillors didn’t want them.”
“In a personal view and not a representation of the Parish Council, I believe that the Parish Council should be abolished as it seems only now to want to promote the social activities of a residents association.”
“There are no allotments in Colnbrook.”
“They are not providing any service to us. I live on Westfield estate where our communal area do not get cleaned nor do the green area all get maintained. We have potholes in our garages, the council said it is private land so you will expect the parish to support but no.”
Drop-in Session Read more
Minutes for the “drop-in” session with the review group only refer to 4 residents being in attendance.
The first, a resident since 2004 said the Parish Council “did not appear to want to recognise the CCA”. Cllr Swindlehurst said that the Chair of the PC had mentioned this point in a meeting held on 21 March, insisting:
“The CCA had been set up primarily to engage residents on the Westfield Estate but had taken on a broader remit and now appeared to be a rival to the PC. In the past the Colnbrook Residents’ Association had been largely dormant but had come back to life at a time when the CCA had been trying to get answers to a number of questions.”
(As regular readers of Colnbrook Views will be aware, the CRA was brought back to life following the attempt of two Parish Councillors – Peter Hood and Barbara Underhill – to have the CCA closed down.)
The resident added:
“… There was a lack of transparency and engagement … the PC was a close knit community – a clique … there was no sense of accountability to local residents …”
The second, a resident of 35 years, said:
“The Parish Council was doing a good job and protecting the village identity”.
The third, a resident since 1978, and “former parish councillor and still very active in village life” was strongly supportive but said he believed the Parish Council was “reliant on about five stalwarts”. He was concerned it had not continued with proposals to draw up a Neighbourhood Plan but added:
“… The public rarely attend PC meetings. Its communications would never satisfy everyone. … There was a degree of apathy locally … “
A fourth resident commented that the CCA had hoped to receive, at the very least, a degree of encouragement and support from the Parish Council but had instead been met with hostility.
“The Parish Council operated as a closed group, getting on with local issues without engaging properly with local residents, and only announcing what they’ve done after the event.”
Heathrow Airport Read more
Cheryl Monk, head of community relations lavished praise on the “constructive relationship” that “helps us spread our messages to an important local audience”. Residents who complained about lack of engagement to the review were surprised to learn that any relationship existed.
Cheryl claimed the Parish regularly publishes articles about Heathrow in its newsletter, although bar an ad for a jobs fair in the last one, articles published over the last five years didn’t exactly spread the Heathrow message!
Mike Rayner (who stepped down as councillor at the last election over 2 years ago) continues to represent the Parish on the Heathrow Focus Forum along with Peter Hood.
Thames Valley Police Read more
Inspector Shelley Squires of Langley Police wrote to support the funding provided by the parish for additional PCSOs.
“This contract is nearing its end and the Parish Council have ensured that they have lobbied the community to gauge the level of support for a renewal to this agreement”.
The lack of proper consultation angered residents a year ago, and a Village Chat held at Grundon’s facility miles from the village was criticised.
Colnbrook Residents’ Association Read more
Mrs G Angell, wife of Vice-Chair Ray Angell, wrote in to defend the Parish Council on behalf of the Colnbrook Residents Association.
“CRA are currently very happy to support the Parish Council and will continue to do so all the time they serve and enhance the local community so well.”
Demonstrating that Thames Valley and the CRA swapped notes prior to making their submissions, she quoted verbatim from the TVP letter:
“In the words of Inspector Shelly Squire ‘Community involvement and assistance is a vital part of delivering targeted and effective policing. Police Community Support Oficers (PCSOs) provide re-assurance to the public, they act as eyes and ears to the wider policing family and gather invaluable evidence'”.
She claimed that the formation of the Parish Council in 1995 – and subsequent takeover of responsibilities previously carried out by the CRA – had enabled the CRA to focus instead on social activities.
She neglected to mention that the CRA was only reformed in 2011 following Cllr Hood’s expulsion from the CCA.
Berkshire Association of Local Authorities Read more
Cllr Roger Loader, Chairman of BALC, wrote in defence of all 3 Parish Councils:
“The current capability of local councils [to support the aspirations of the Localism Act 2011] does vary but this can be addressed. The principles of ‘Parishing’ is strong, well organised, and should be continued”.
It is not clear if Cllr Loader was aware of the Parish Council’s rejection of localism powers and a Neighbourhood Plan. Or of the council’s u-turn on abandoning its membership of BALC, and rejection of the Quality Council Scheme.
Colnbrook Community Partnership Read more
Colnbrook’s elder statesman Laurie Tucker wrote the CCP’s official submission, although he did not declare his position as former Parish Council chair.
Neither did fellow trustee Mike Nye, who made an additional submission, but only as a resident and without declaring his parish or CCP roles. He claimed:
“The Parish Council, in recent times, has brought many enhancements into our community, including the encouragement of many voluntary groups, proactively engaged in enhancing life in Colnbrook and Poyle.”
After reeling off a list of impressive CCP achievements including new children’s play facilities, plans for a new tennis court, the revamp of Westfield Community Hall, and of St Thomas’ Church Quiet Garden, and the bio-diversity project in Crown Meadow, Nye added:
“The scale of achievements … is indicative of a community working together, encouraged by the Parish Council, who provide a cohesive umbrella of engagement to most groups who have a positive contribution to make to village life”.
During the review group’s face to face meeting with the Parish Chair and Vice-Chair Cllr Mann asked how much the PC had secured in external funding? In reply Cllr Hood said that grants had amounted to £120,000 over the last 2 years, with £300,000 having been raised for sponsorship for local parks and communities.
Cllr Mann pointed out that there was a huge discrepancy between the three parish councils in terms of services provided and funding. While not specifically referring to the fewer services provided by Colnbrook, the review group’s impression was that the PC were doing a great deal of work at a relatively lower cost than Britwell Parish Council.
Pippins School Read more
Acting Head Mrs J Mills wrote that
“As an organisation we have been encouraged and supported by the Parish Council and consider that they play a very important part in the cohesion of the local community.”
The PTFA wrote that the school has benefited from funding from the Parish for new modern school gym equipment.
Colnbrook C of E School Read more
Head Jeremy Meek said
“The Parish Council has for some years funded end of term prizes … part funded new playground equipment in the sum of £1,500 and the Chair of the Parish Council … very kindly agreed to officially open this new play area”.