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VOTE 2021: Wokingham Borough Conservatives pledge: ‘We exist to serve you’

John Halsall
Wokingham Borough Council leader Cllr John Halsall
Vote 2021

As May 6 comes closer, our manifesto series sees WOKINGHAM CONSERVATIVES explain why you should vote for them

Our goal is to provide the best quality services and the best value for money… It is your taxes the council spends after all. You deserve to know that it is being spent wisely on your behalf.

According to recent surveys, Wokingham Borough is already the healthiest place to live in England and one of the top 10 places to live in Britain.

We are hugely proud of this achievement but we are ambitious to do even more.

Our ambition is to make Wokingham Borough the best place in Britain to live, learn, work, grow and do business.

How will we achieve it?

The best services for you

Cllr John Kaiser said: “Both the Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy and the global accountancy experts Ernst and Young state that Wokingham is one of the best managed councils financially in the country. Total net debt is just £83million versus total assets in excess of £1.4 billion.”

We are determined to maintain our position as one of the best financially managed councils in Britain. We will continue finding new income streams to help us to become less reliant on council tax and to be able to maintain non-statutory services without additional cost to you.

We will keep making services easier for residents to access, regardless of ability or capability. We are committed to improving our communications and transparency, so you know what we are spending your council taxes on, and more importantly, why.

“During the pandemic we haven’t cut any services other than the ones that lockdown has forced us to temporarily close,” said Leader of the Council, Cllr John Halsall.

“We didn’t furlough any staff. Instead, we redeployed 120 people to support frontline Covid response, assisting residents, delivering more than  5,000 food parcels and 917 prescriptions, conducting more than 19,000 welfare checks and making 3,500 calls to vulnerable adults.”

The best place to live

Conservatives want our Borough to be a vibrant, inclusive, and diverse community with opportunities for all.

We are committed to combating poverty, inequality, anti-social behaviour and homelessness. In a community as affluent as Wokingham no one should live in poverty. We will help all those in need of assistance, support, and a place to live by continuing to reduce rough sleeping and homelessness. We are committed to ensuring everyone has a home.

As we emerge from the pandemic it is vital that we continue to support our vulnerable, at risk and older residents who have suffered many months of isolation and uncertainty. Conservatives are committed to continuously improving care services, providing greater focus on individual need over statutory requirement. We will work with the voluntary sector, and the One Front Door to ensure that all residents continue to have the help and support they need as life returns to normal.

“The dedication and commitment of our volunteers in supporting our community over the last 12 months has been outstanding,” said Cllr Charles Margetts. “Very soon we will be welcoming the charity MIND to our community. Their support for the mental health of our residents will be invaluable.

Your Conservative councillors are committed to creating more opportunities for our young people to find careers or work experience and to access new affordable accommodation, leisure facilities, open spaces, and social opportunities.

We are committed to help residents move around our borough. Conservatives will continue to invest in the quality of our roads, pavements, paths, green ways and cycleways. We will invest in smart traffic light systems to ease congestion, improve air quality and reduce carbon emissions.

Cllr Pauline Jorgenson said: “We will invest £4.8 million in road repairs over the next 12 months, which is double what we spent last year. 2020 was already one of the busiest years ever for highways repairs as we used the Covid travel ban period to conduct repairs that otherwise would have disrupted traffic. We are spending £94million on roads, cycleways and paths, reducing congestion and increasing air quality.”

All Conservative councillors will continue to oppose inappropriate house building using all means available.

“In 2020 we successfully stood up to our own government and led the national charge against the proposed changes to the national house building targets,” said Cllr Wayne Smith.

“Those plans would have required the council to double the number of houses built across our borough each year. We are now working to ensure a fair house building target for Wokingham Borough.

“The council has also retained the best property barrister in the country to help us fight planning appeals, like the one successfully defeated at Woodcray.”

Conservative Councillors have committed to building 1,000 new council, social, affordable and key worker homes over the next four years.

We are committed to supporting our residents to lead active, healthy lifestyles by investing in greenways and world class leisure facilities.

“Over the last five years we have invested more than £50 million into building or updating, existing sports and leisure facilities across Wokingham Borough.

“Loddon Valley, Bulmershe, Ryeish Green and Arborfield, California Country Park, Emmbrook, Cantley Park, Arborfield Primary, Dinton Pastures and the Carnival Pool have all received significant investment into their facilities.

“There are more than 90 parks and accessible green spaces across the borough and over 170km of greenways and public rights of way,” said Pauline Helliar-Symons.

“Once we have emerged from lockdown our residents can really enjoy getting moving and exploring all that our wonderful borough has to offer.”

Conservatives are committed to investing into the future of all our communities, investing to keep our streets secure, reducing instances of anti-social behaviour and keeping crime rates low.

The best place to learn

Conservatives are committed to ensuring every school in our borough has a ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’ Ofsted rating.

We have plans to build three new primary schools and to expand the special educational provision within our borough.

Cllr UllaKarin Clark says, “Every child deserves the best start in life possible. Although we can’t influence many aspects of our schools’ curriculums or admissions process, we can ensure they are supported by offering the best learning environments.”

We are committed to expanding opportunities for continuing adult learning and retraining for those who have lost their jobs as a result of covid.

The best place to work

Conservatives are committed to ensuring that everyone has access to work and employment opportunities.

We will continue to build a diverse economy, providing access to opportunities for all, encouraging new industry sectors to make Wokingham Borough their base.

The Wokingham Employment Hub will soon open, bringing together employment opportunities across multiple industries, and offering help and support for those seeking employment.

We see this as an essential element of getting our community back to work post Covid.

The best place to grow

Conservatives are committed to protecting our environment for future generations. In 2019 we declared a Climate Emergency and are proud to have a bold and ambitious Action Plan in place to reduce our carbon footprint. To achieve our environmental vision of being a Net Carbon Neutral Borough by 2030 we have very clear goals:

1. Dramatically the volume of waste we produce.

2. Extend our recycling program to include 70% of our waste.

3. Send Zero Waste to Landfill.

4. Eliminate non-essential Single Use Plastics from the council’s supply chain and operations.

5. Build four solar farms, generating clean energy for at least a third of the homes in our borough.

6. Plant 250,000 new trees, including 10,000 in residential gardens.

7. Set home building conditions requiring the highest levels of carbon and energy efficiency in their construction and use.

8. Invest in sustainable alternative transport options and support growing electric vehicle usage by providing the necessary infrastructure.

9. Protect our green spaces, encourage biodiversity and protect our veteran trees.

We have come a long way in the last two years, but the hardest work is still to come.

What is satisfying is that our work is being held up as best practice to other local authorities.

One example is the recent £300,000 grant given to Wokingham Borough by the Woodland Trust to support our tree planting and maintenance program.

We are one of only 10 councils to be awarded first phase funding.

The best place to do business

For many years Conservatives in Wokingham have sought to support and encourage businesses of all sizes. Throughout the pandemic we have supported our local economy: distributing more than £60million in business rates relief and in business support and discretionary grants.

Over the next five years it will be essential for us to support local economic recovery. We will work with all businesses in our community to help them build back better following the pandemic.

We will create new job opportunities across our borough by encouraging existing business expansion, and by bringing new businesses and industries here, particularly those in the ‘green economy’.

“Conservatives have always been hugely ambitious for our Borough and we continue to be so,” added Cllr John Halsall.

“The Covid pandemic has shown just what can be achieved when our amazing community comes together and sets itself very clear objectives.

“We believe that our goals and objectives are clear. We exist to serve you. We want
to make Wokingham Borough the very best place to live, learn, work, grow and do business in the country. A vote for the Conservatives on May 6 is a vote for the future of our community.

“We have delivered in the past; we were solid in the pandemic and we have an ambitious plan for the future.

“Why risk it? Vote Conservative.”

READ MORE: Lib Dems plan for the borough

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