David Burbage’s weblog

Politics in the Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead

  • About David Burbage

    David Burbage MBE was Leader of the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead Council from 2007-2016. This blog : Promoted by Geoff Hill on behalf of David Burbage and all other Windsor and Maidenhead Conservative candidates, all of 2 Castle End Farm, Ruscombe, Berkshire RG10 9XQ
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Parting speech to Cabinet

Posted by davidburbage on April 28, 2016

I’ve been attending the Cabinet of the Royal Borough for not just the last 9 years, but for over 14 – in the earlier Conservative administration from 2001 – and almost all Cabinet meetings since.

The only times I’ve not been here are either that I’ve been on holiday – or on one occasion, on an operating theatre table.

I know that Members, officers and the media know about the council tax cuts, the increase in libraries and Sunday opening, the weekly bin collections, the 100% delivery of our 2007 and 2011 manifesto pledges, the spending transparency and the investment in roads.

I know you know about the saving of Windsor Fire Station, the planting of over 10,000 trees and this Leader’s fondness for fountains which are springing up, if you forgive the pun, around and about. And shortly on a roundabout!

We allowed all those residents who say they don’t really like council tax cuts to donate back their council tax savings for us to invest in local public services. I think there has been one ever? Maybe two?

Anyway, tens of millions of pounds has been left in local residents’ pockets for them to spend.

Things do take years to complete – we’ve got the new Oldfield School, completed the missing link in the Thames Path and of course we were talking about the great new Stafferton Way Link at Council.

We have 3 new free schools including Holyport College in my ward courtesy of Cllr Dudley, new and improved leisure centre facilities at Cox Green, Charters and Furze Platt, hundreds of streets adopted by residents to keep free of litter, we have Royal Borough Ambassadors and a great big purple Town Crier.

Maidenhead is regenerating, Windsor is thriving, customer services are improving, new bus shelters are standing, grit bins and dog bins are proliferating but traffic lights are disappearing, solar panels and Bright Ideas are happening, to parishes, powers are devolving, Cllr Wilson’s local plan is emerging and the Council is transforming.

I’d like to sincerely thank all of the hard working council officers and tremendous efforts of my fellow Members to help this Conservative administration deliver such amazing results for local people. With our 2015 manifesto being delivered, much more is to come.

Finally, and to lift a quote from Tony Blair’s departing remarks, “Some may belittle politics but we who are engaged in it know it is where people stand tall. If it is, on occasions, the place of low skulduggery, it is more often the place for the pursuit of noble causes.”

Thanks to one and all

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Posted by davidburbage on April 22, 2016

Over the last 9 years the Royal Borough has gone from strength to strength. The work of this flagship Conservative Council has delivered large and sustained council tax cuts, opened new libraries, kept weekly refuse and weekly recycling collections, seen massive increases in volunteering (being selected as a Big Society vanguard) and nationally pioneering public spending transparency, participatory budgeting and incentives for recycling.


In Maidenhead we’ve opened the Stafferton Way Link road, linked up the Thames Path and are seeing massive investments in the town centre and the Waterways being built.


In Windsor we restored the Lutyens’ King George V Memorial fountain and installed a much-loved Jubilee fountain – alongside the new bandstand. We also saved the town’s fire station.


We have introduced a safeguarding hub (a “MASH”), shared services with other local authorities, increased our community wardens and become one of the best authorities in the country in processing residents’ revenues and benefits.


This has been done whilst reducing the tax bills of residents, and running the most efficient unitary authority in the country.


I have spent 16 years as a councillor for Bray, 13 years as the Conservative Group Leader and 9 as the Leader of the Council. I’ve chaired the inter-authority South East Strategic Leaders and Berkshire Leaders’ groups over many of the last 6 years – and received an MBE for my efforts.


With that done, it is time for a change at the top.


Nobody carries on for ever – so whilst the tremendous support from both councillor colleagues and Borough employees throughout my time has been amazing, I am going to give others the opportunity to succeed as the Council’s Leader, to continue the work of this excellent Conservative administration for many years into the future, starting at the forthcoming Annual Council meeting in May.


This is a fantastic Royal Borough and I hope I have served with dedication, enthusiasm and a passion for local democracy and public service. I thank the thousands of local people I have had the privilege of meeting, and particularly to all those who have elected me in Bray 5 times in succession, I do aim to continue to serve, in any way I usefully can.







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Leave or Remain?

Posted by davidburbage on February 22, 2016

The executive summary – Leave!

Behind the conclusion lie a wide range of issues, however. As a free marketer, and one who applauds the openness of borders for trade and commerce and for people generally, the common market has always been an attractive concept.

In my view, as with most people, Europe has never been the totemic policy below which all other issues become less important. But as someone who couldn’t vote in 1975, it has now become one, with the referendum delivered by the majority Conservative Government.

The sovereignty issue is the most significant argument for me. It was brought home by the strange requirement to garner an agreement across 28 heads of government regarding a change to how a UK Government chooses to pay UK benefits from UK public finances. This is, at best, pretty tangential to the ability of people to live and work and trade freely across Europe without penalty. Yet this is the situation that cumulative EU rules and treaties have given us.

Tony Benn used to argue against the EU as undemocratic . In his 5 questions on the exercise of power by powerful people, the last of the questions reads “and how can we get rid of you?”. Point made, EU. How do we remove Donald Tusk, or Jean-Claude Juncker? (Mrs Miggins on the Maidenhead omnibus might even ask who they are – or Corina Cretu, or Gunther Oettinger, or Cecilia Malmstrom*).

As Michael Gove pointed out, every minister has been told that to do X is against EU rules. This has happened to me as a Council leader.

Not so long ago, when we were looking at the delay to the Maidenhead Waterways planning application, it became apparent that the charity had to submit a comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment. “Why bother?” I said. “Brunel never required an EIA to build an entire railway!”

It was, of course, because of an EU Directive, copied into UK law, that any proposal for more than 2 miles of “canalisation” demanded that additional piece of red tape and bureaucracy. Ignoring it was not an option – it would have created an unlawful , subject to challenge, planning permission….

Back to borders. The original aim for free movement of people has been completely blown away by the surge in economic migrants. So borders are popping up everywhere. Even with EU migrants, immigration pressures are causing problems. Only this week Bosolver Council has been in the news because of houses being subdivided into flats to provide worker accommodation for Eastern Europeans. Councils in London have set up teams to deal with “Beds in Sheds”.

What about the Euro? It is telling that many of the same people who wanted us to join the euro are the same people who want us at the heart of Europe, at the table, on the train that’s leaving the station, in the tent etc etc. Like with the cast iron 3% budget deficit limit (remember the Stability and Growth Pact?), the best intentions of the halcyon days of a strong common currency are distant dreams. France, Spain, Portugal have all run deficits for many years, and they are not alone. Don’t even start looking at Greece! Wikipedia notes dryly “The Pact has proved to be unenforceable against big countries such as France and Germany, which were its strongest promoters when it was created”.

Our economic interests must lie in the wider global market, having wisely kept the Pound. We are the fifth largest economy in the world – I think we can cope!

In conclusion, to have control of our own affairs, to decide our own laws, the taxes we must pay, the ability to remove those who set our laws – and even decide the levels of our benefits payments – most of all, for the simple reason of British Parliamentary sovereignty, I will be supporting the Leave campaign.


*Donald Tusk, from Poland, is the President of the European Council. Jean-Claude Juncker, from Luxembourg, is the President of the EU Commission. Corina Cretu, Gunther Oettinger and Cecilia Malmstrom are commissioners from Romania, Germany and Sweden respectively with responsibility for Regional Policy, Digital Economy and Society, and Trade.

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Posted by davidburbage on January 15, 2016

Success, as they say, has many fathers. And failure is a lonely orphan!

But when a plan comes together, it’s worth noting. In July last year (in an exchange of letters regarding the safeguarding inspection from Ofsted) I wrote to the Minister :

Secondly, Ministers need to act to ensure proper safeguarding practice across agencies becomes a legal requirement. It has been like pulling teeth to get the Thames Valley Police to place even a part time officer in our Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub. This is totally unacceptable. Together, you need to sort this out through proper inspection and oversight rather than having one inspection regime for the wicket keeper and another for the bowler – the current framework across Whitehall departments is inadequate.

Yesterday, this news story came out :

Watchdogs to unite for children’s service inspections


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Party Conference 2015

Posted by davidburbage on October 7, 2015

What a great conference to have attended – with a majority Conservative Government, the left in disarray and providing the country with a real image of the true beliefs of those who back the Labour party, and a fantastic line-up of colleagues who are running the country.

I was pleased to speak at the Taxpayers Alliance session on Council Tax, a fringe from the Association of Convenience Stores, hosted a housing reception for Essential Living and meeting ministers and MPs across a number of receptions and dinners.

The Chancellor announced significant measures but most significant of all, a new localisation of business rates. Quite how this will work is yet to been seen, but it has to be good news. Given I had called for the localisation of the rates at 9.30am that morning, I’m pleased the Chancellor was listening – the response to the request was nicely timed!

Maidenhead MP and Home Secretary Theresa May set out the strong case for security of the nation and maintaining firm border controls – and crucially made the differentiation between economic migrants and refugees from war. Then a real barnstormer speech from the Mayor of London Boris Johnson, endorsing Zac Goldsmith as our candidate next year and in the presence of the Prime Minister.

Supported by fellow councillors Simon Dudley, Christine Bateson and Hari Sharma, we had a great time catching up with old friends and colleagues – and return invigorated to make as DC said today, a greater Britain.


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The joy of Twitter

Posted by davidburbage on September 13, 2015

There’s a lot of witty banter online…. one of my particular favourites is the “beyond parody” account General Boles that purports to look at things from the Member for Grantham and Stanford’s view . . . but it often just comes up with brilliant comedy.

Here is his assessment of the Labour result :



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Dangerous, blogging

Posted by davidburbage on September 12, 2015

Walking on egg shells, is this blogging lark. Just like answering live public questions publicly….

As a colleague puts it, “livin’ the dream”!

Anyway, every silver something has a cloudy lining.

From ConHome :

  • Corbyn’s first sin could be saving the Lib Dems. What do you have to do to finally extinguish the Liberal Democrats? Just when they are finally driven to the brink of extinction, the Labour Party zooms off into the left field and offers them a chance to survive in the gap which opens as a result. If Corbyn wasn’t bad enough already, this offence is unforgivable.


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First among equals

Posted by davidburbage on July 23, 2015

With the proposal to appoint our Director of Children’s Services to the “Managing Director” position at Council, some are asking who will be the new Children’s Services Director. It’ll be Alison Alexander!

This is because our four Directors are equals, all having responsibility for their departments, but accountable to Members “upwards”. The law requires that we have a Head of Paid Service (our MD) which in practical terms means coordinating staff structures (though decided by the Members), chairing meetings, often being the external spokesperson for the Council, directing and responding to complaints against the Council in the right direction, and a few other minor responsibilities. We abolished the post of “Chief Executive” in 2012, saving the best part of £200,000 a year.

The former MD (Mike McGaughrin) retired at the end of 2014, but a couple of Director changes and the 2015 election meant we weren’t in position to appoint a replacement until now…..

http://www.rbwm.gov.uk/web/directorates_organisation_charts.htm contains the basic idea. We’ll update this with a new version shortly as there are obviously changes to be made.


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with apologies

Posted by davidburbage on July 22, 2015

I can’t keep up with open comments discussions, sorry. Have scalped the relevant points.

Love a good debate (obv) but sadly am reverting back to the more mundane blog approach for purely practical reasons (noting it is now 11.54 pm).

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More democracy in action

Posted by davidburbage on July 22, 2015

When we were elected with a large majority *, the local press got worried that we would have too large a majority. My response was that there were plenty of opportunities to hold the Council to account through regular channels such as petitions, meetings, the press (and indeed although I didn’t say it, social media as well).

It’s disappointing that even with an extensive presentation, Q&A, a 14 page explanatory document and countless responses by email and otherwise, opponents of expanding Holyport College still claim the Borough is “refusing” to answer questions as if we have something to hide. That’s simply not the case, and is unfair to council staff (oh the irony!).

What is really happening is that the answers do explain our decision (taken unanimously before the election) in extreme detail, but just because it isn’t the answer that the opponents want to hear, they choose to complain that their questions “haven’t been answered” rather than actually articulate a better policy direction for local education provision beyond “fairer funding”.

Conservative councils are also campaigning for fairer funding in education!

In fact, the complaints about process reveal that there aren’t actually any better fundamental policy approaches; for some in politics, protecting existing institutions is more important than giving choice to parents and providing excellent education.

Many Labour councils have sought to block free schools for narrow political purposes.

In fact, the Borough has recently received a letter from 5 Maidenhead Secondaries which veers along those lines. Maybe we can publish that with our response? I hope so. (eg one point is they want limited capacity, a 5% headroom, in the local schools system rather than the 10% we’re aiming for. Less choice please! I wonder why…. another priority for Head Teachers and chairs of governors is opposition to a satellite grammar. Yet Theresa May, also massively re-elected this year, has been a vocal supporter of this, as have we.).

Opposition coming from the direction of supplier preference is often predicated on what’s best for education suppliers (incumbents), not what’s best for local education consumers (parents and children).

Most schools in the Borough – around 75% – are Good or Outstanding. That’s fantastic for parents and a credit to the hard work of the Heads, teachers and Governors involved. Those schools should look to expand if they can, and, like Oldfield Primary, we’ll support that if possible.

But one of the questions opponents of expansion should ask is, why are so many parents looking to get into a new and unproven school when there are so many alternatives? Why don’t opponents of growing a new free school ask that question?

Let me be clear – I recognise the concern of people who think we are picking winners in some kind of unfair way. And it’s hard to see how we can expand a free school where a senior councillor is the chair of governors without others crying foul, saying “unfair”, and looking for fault and error. Opponents of expanding a free school will indeed campaign – and that needs addressing, with the clear information and straightforward justification of why decisions were taken. So we’ve done that.

I also respect the size of the petition and the need to address it publicly (although there are a number of external signatories on there eg apparently from Australia, Derbyshire and with such clarity such as “SJ” and “Nicola”! – there are lots of locals) which is why we’re very happy to debate the matter at our council meeting.

What is most important is providing more secondary school places in the Borough, and with an extremely popular and oversubscribed school – statistically the most popular – this is what we have done.

That’s a good decision for Borough residents overall and given the same opportunity to expand this local state school for the benefit of local parents and children, I’d do it again, and be very happy with that policy. 

Here are the answers to the questions posed on the Advertiser’s Viewpoint page. (A number of this week’s Viewpoint contributors are known critics of the administration generally or Holyport College/free schools in particular.)

Eddie Clarke : Q : Why is there no audit trail? … A : There is, and it’s answered and available here .

Q : Middle schools admissions? – A: I believe it is so it benefits both Windsor and Maidenhead pupils. For example, in Fifield I have residents “stuck” between the two schools systems because of distance and geography.

Q: Hard to comprehend? : A : because it’s hugely oversubscribed, and the developer contribution supports an expansion for 48 extra pupils. Not at all hard to comprehend.

Q: Only supporting HC? : A : No.

Gavin Ames Q: How’s it going A: It’s going well! I’m not going to bypass our specific process for dealing with petitions however, Council will deal with the petition and questions on the agenda next week. But afterwards sounds do-able!

Malcolm Burtt Q : how is it not coasting? A : This I will speak to at council next week (as it’s now a public question he’s asking)

Brian Millin states, seemingly without irony, simultaneously demanding answers and then complaining that I wrote to the press to provide answers, and further then demands that I should do the “decent thing” and give answers in the press, presumably ASAP, rather than wait for the Council meeting. Maybe he will agree that a post-Council engagement would be best . . . . . you can’t please all the people all the time! His questions are answered in the link from Eddie Clarke above.

Brian is also asking a public question.

Kate Sheehan Q : Why is one of his [me] officers now not willing to respond to our questions? A: because they’ve been answered numerous times!

* By the way, there are 57 seats on the council not 59. We won 54, not 56. The Advertiser editorial and Eddie Clarke both get this wrong. Snap!

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