Published on

19 July 2023

Update on proposed changes to street cleansing and grounds maintenance

Changes to litter bins and grass cutting to go through a formal decision-making route.

Long grass

Despite the triple threat of rampant inflation, increasing needs in the community and continuously low funding from central government, the council remains committed to sound finances and protecting those people who need us most.

Changes to follow formal decision-making process

It was with these commitments in mind that the council initiated changes such as the “taping” off of some litter bins and changes to grass cutting, with other savings planned for street sweeping, weed spraying and tidying of areas around bottle banks to make much-needed savings. These savings were not fully approved via the council’s correct protocol and this oversight means the council will now go through a formal decision-making route.

Leader of the Council Stephen Conway said: “After years of getting less and less money from central government we are now facing spiralling costs due to inflation and more and more people needing our help. This triple threat that means we need to be fully focused on efficiency and revenue-generation so we can survive and continue to help those who need us.

“The threats posed to our finances should not be under-estimated; other councils have effectively gone bankrupt and the impact of that is horrendous – services cut to the bone and Council Tax up to 10% or thereabouts. It is not a fate we want inflicted on Wokingham Borough.

“However, in our understandable desire to make these necessary changes, we did not follow the correct procedure and we apologise for that. We will now go through the correct process, which will start next month with a public consultation on how any changes should be implemented.”

Changes could save tax payers £600,000

The changes to litter bins, street sweeping, cleaning of areas around bottle banks and weed spraying would save taxpayers about £600,000 over three years and changes to the grass cutting service would mean £100,000 savings per year through reduction of cuts from six to four for grass areas except for play parks and other amenity areas. Highway verges that impact safety sightlines would continue to be a focus and cut on the current schedule.

Cllr Conway added: “Nobody wants to make changes like these but we have been left with no choice thanks to years of under-funding and now inflation that is pushing the cost of everything we do up and up.

“Wokingham Borough gets the least funding from central government per resident of any unitary authority in the country – £30million per year less than if it was funded in the same way as the average unitary authority – at a time when residents need support the most.

“And it is important to remember who it is that we are protecting services for: it is people with learning difficulties, physical disabilities and mental health problems as well as older people who struggle to look after themselves without some help and children with additional needs. I make no apology that, in the financial position we have been placed, these people will take priority over litter bins or length of grass.”

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