OUR WINTER UPDATE
The local elections in May, when Bracknell Forest became a Labour lead Council and we were all successfully elected to represent you as the Great Hollands Ward Councillors, seems a very long time ago.
We have all been working very hard to respond to your emails, and phone calls and do the surgeries, – every Wednesday in the Look In from 12.00 -13.00, and on the first Saturday of each month in the library from 10.30-12.00. Your main concerns have been housing – always the most difficult to resolve; damp; fly tipping; abandoned cars and drug dealing.
We have also been very busy as members of the Council, attending oh so many meetings. Mary was elected to be the Leader of Bracknell Forest Council and Naheed is the Bracknell Forest Mayor for this year, with events to attend nearly every day. We have set up the Great Hollands Councillor Facebook page to give you all regular updates of our activities.
Locally: We are glad that the car park near the doctor’s surgery has at last been resurfaced and remarked with slightly wider bays. The car park near the William Twigg will be done this year too, if the budget allows.
Ringmead has also been resurfaced, both near the Crowthorne Road access, and near Vandyke/Waverley.
EV charging hubs have been put in at the William Twigg car park. The two middle ones charge at a faster rate than the others.
We have not managed to get the lights at the Mill Lane roundabout reinstated, despite our arguments and evidence of the long tail backs each morning. This is the officer’s report:
“The conclusion is that, given the change in travel patterns over time, including post COVID impacts, the junction modelling shows that overall junction performance is better for the travelling public without the traffic lights.”
The roofs of the Community Centre, Library and Children’s Centre have been insulated and the Community Centre has also received new windows and insulated panels under each window. This will certainly help the heating bills.
As a result of the reports of drug dealing around the shops, underpasses and garage blocks, the police spent three days on Great Hollands following up on information and visiting the suspects. John Wildridge is also soon to return as the Great Hollands Community police contact. This is very welcome news. John was here for many years before being moved elsewhere. He knows the area and our community. He has even been given a bike to help him get through our alleyways more quickly.
Fly tipping at the recycling area has certainly reduced and the bottle banks are now emptied more frequently so the whole area has improved.
‘Share’ is now operating from the Zone in Great Hollands Shopping area every Saturday morning from 10.00-12.00. They provide food for £1 that would otherwise go to landfill and no referral is needed.
Borough wide: The Labour Manifesto on which we were elected has been transformed into the ‘Bracknell Forest Council Plan’ and will be used to prioritise our decisions and achievements for the next four years, including- affordable housing; SEND support; public transport review; youth provision; roads and parking; community policing; maintenance of green spaces; community cohesion; being open and transparent; taking the council to the residents and keeping you all fully informed.
Some of what we have achieved so far:
- Help for Households event: 15 partner organisations came together in Princess Square to inform local people of the help available to them – the first of our promise to take the Council to the Residents.
- Targeted campaign for council tax support: resulted in 23 households being awarded a council tax reduction, three further households receiving exemptions, and additional support through the Local Welfare Scheme.
- Council tax energy rebate distribution: The council contacted 299 households who received a council tax energy rebate as credit but had not claimed it. This distributed an additional £4,500 of income across these households, with ongoing outreach to others.
- Cost of living drop-in sessions: officers conducted a trial cost of living drop-in session in Great Hollands and continues to explore venues and networks for future sessions.
- Supporting families through schools: council representatives met with headteachers to address financial challenges faced by pupils and shared materials for local and national support.
- Household Support Fund and Local Welfare Scheme: Between 1 May and 10 August, £34,263 was distributed to households for essential and crisis support related to food, energy and household essentials.
- Several plans adopted to provide affordable homes in the Town Centre
- Bridgwell Flats to be rebuilt to provide homes for our older residents needing supported living.
- Youth Work review ongoing.
- Ongoing work to improve the SEND provision.
- Climate Summit held and Community Climate Action Board established.
- Lexicon events: Pride Day; Community Day; Tea Dance
You will have realised that most Councils in the country are in financial difficulties and Bracknell Forest is no exception. We are in a better place than most, but still have very difficult decisions to make in order to achieve the legal balanced budget next February.
The business rates of many buildings have been reassessed by the National Valuation Office Agency and found to been too high. The council must repay the businesses, and this repayment is backdated to 2019. This will cost millions.
Because of the lack of provision for SEND children in Bracknell Forest, children have had to attend special schools outside the borough- costing £7m a year over budget. The Government has now decided this has to be repaid over the next five years and we are having to provide a business plan showing how this overspend will be balanced, and the outstanding debt paid. No mean task for a new Council to sort out.
Thank you for your emails and for stopping to chat. We enjoy being your Councillors and are working to make a real difference across the whole of Bracknell Forest.