THE council’s communications protocol is a “recipe” for the ruling Conservatives to “spew out” their propaganda, the opposition has said.

Tory councillors and the opposing Lib Dems and Independents clashed over amendments to the Royal Borough’s constitution regarding planning, communications, and gifts and hospitality at a full council meeting on Tuesday, November 23.

All councillors agreed to amend the constitution to register any multiple or recurring gift or hospitality, with an individual buyer less than £25 but a combined total of £50 over a three-month period, received from an individual or group, within 28 days of its receipt

Another change, which was recommended by a cross-party constitution working group, included adding a communications protocol on how to best engage with residents and spread information. It also sets out how members and officers deal with the media.

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It notes that council communications may not be used for party political purposes.

But this sparked a clash with the opposition, who said this can be used as a “recipe” for the Conservatives to use the comms department to “spew out” their propaganda and “blatant electioneering.”

Liberal Democrats leader Simon Werner (Pinkneys Green) said: “Council comms should be useful information.

“Information about how to become a foster parent and when your bins are going to be collected. It should not be about fictional accounts on how fab the council is.”

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The lead member for communications, Cllr Ross McWilliams (Con: Cox Green) slammed that suggestion as a “ludicrous idea” based on no evidence and was a “poor comment” to make.

He also said it was “sad” to see the comms teams’ integrity called into question when they have been spreading important public health information, how to become a foster carer, and how to engage with the council via panels and consultations.

The cross-party group also recommended that any substitute councillors from across the borough can fill in a vacant spot in a planning panel if a member is absent.

This means a Maidenhead councillor can decide on a Windsor planning application if they are called to substitute.


Full council meeting

Full council meeting


This was triggered after Windsor councillors were called in as last-minute replacements for a Maidenhead development management panel in August, that was dubbed a “disgrace,” but couldn’t sit as they were not Maidenhead representatives.

The monitoring officer states this geographical restriction on substitute members presents an “area of weakness” for the council and an “increased risk” of conflicts of interest.

Opposition councillors were concerned that opening the planning panels to non-local councillors risks the increase of impartiality in the decision-making and “tears out” the localism in determining planning applications that affect local people.


Cllr John Baldwin

Cllr John Baldwin


Cllr John Baldwin (Lib Dem: Belmont) said: “I have concluded that all of this is simply a rouse by which they can lock a Conservative majority on both panels and under all circumstances.

“That intent is far more damaging to impartiality than the current arrangements.”

Meanwhile, Cllr Geoff Hill (TBF: Oldfield) said this amendment was “undemocratic,” while the leader of the Independent group Lynne Jones (Old Windsor) urged members to only use non-local councillors as substitutes in an emergency.


Cllr Andrew Johnson

Cllr Andrew Johnson


But council leader Andrew Johnson (Con: Hurley & Walthams) said it was “disappointing” to hear that this will be “misused” as it will give the planning panels “flexibility” when needed especially during the pandemic when some members need to self-isolate.

All councillors voted in favour of the gifts and hospitality amendment, whereas the Liberal Democrats and Cllr Hill voted against the approved communications protocol.

The controversial planning amendment was approved by the ruling Tories.