At a meeting of Runnymede's Full Council on 20th July 2023, Conservative Plans (Agenda Item 11) to highjack funding intended to support local communities, were rejected thanks to Opposition Councillors (Liberal Democrats, Labour, Greens and Independents) who voted against the proposal.
For background, when new housing developments are built, the developers are required to make a financial contribution to a Community Infrastructure Levi (CIL) to support local services and infrastructure. If the development is in a designated Neighbourhood Area 25% of the CIL money should be for the benefit of that neighbourhood. 15% is reserved as standard in other areas.
The Conservative proposal, put forward on Thursday night, disregarded the neighbourhood element and suggested putting all the funds into a single pot. Furthermore, a small group of 5 Conservative councillors would be responsible for directing where, and on what, the money would be spent. It should also be noted that these councillors are predominantly responsible for wards where only a small proportion of the developments are planned. Unlike, for example, the ward of Longcross, Lyne and Chertsey South which faces a large amount of residential development over the next few years, with the prospect of not having the right infrastructure or essential services being built at the same time.
Cllr Don Whyte, leader of the LibDem group, made a strong case for the proposal being undemocratic and biased, commenting "The Conservatives have had too much power in Runnymede for too long. The opposition parties have worked collaboratively to protect the interests of our residents and we will continue to do so as long as the Conservative administration continue to act in their own interests. Our local communities all need to have infrastructure and key services which can support local needs, but this proposal had the potential to see a select few areas receiving disproportionate funding, just because of the political persuasion of their councillors."
New proposals will be brought forward in due course and we will make sure to keep residents informed.
This defeat of the administration was just one of the thorns in the Conservatives' night. Proposals (Item 9c) for how to find £5.2m of cost saving/revenue improvements, in order to deliver a balanced budget in 2 years' time, were also rejected by the Opposition councillors. There was strong consensus among those in opposition that the process should include the service committees to ensure adequate scrutiny and debate, and avoid the problems experienced in Woking and other councils who have found themselves in financial difficulties.