FUNDING to the arts could be scrapped – but residents demanding the Royal Borough Council to continue its investment top the budget consultation leader boards.

This year’s budget is set to be debated by senior councillors at this week’s cabinet meeting after it went through a two-month consultation for residents to express their views.

It proposes a two per cent increase in council tax and a one per cent rise in the social care precept – an increase of £33.38 or just less than 64p a week, for band D households.

There will also be an increased £3 million investment in children’s services, as part of a £10 million boost over the next three years.

Council leader Andrew Johnson (Con: Hurley & Walthams) said the budget “looks to the future with investment at its heart” while maintaining one of the lowest council tax rates outside London.

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The consultation results were published last week where over 1,800 people responded – 97 per cent of which were residents and the remaining three per cent were businesses, community, and voluntary groups.

This is nearly three times more responses compared to the 2021/22 budget consultation, which received 650 comments.

Dominating the charts, locals have been demanding the council to invest in arts and culture, including Maidenhead’s Norden Farm and Windsor’s The Old Court.

The Conservative-run Royal Borough have been under pressure to abolish its proposed plan to withdraw its funding from the arts by residents, opposition councillors, and the Public Campaign for the Arts – who have set up a petition that has garnered over 4,900 signatures.

Royal Borough Observer:

Royal Borough Observer:

Just over 1,000 people urged the council to make investments into the arts a priority. It was the most mentioned item in the comments and suggestions within the consultation, cited by 555 people.

Maidenhead and District Chamber of Commerce and the Youth Council also expressed concern about the arts funding, specifically Norden Farm.

Director of the Public Campaign for the Arts Jack Gamble said: “The arts are not a luxury – they provide vital benefits to our lives and communities.

“We appreciate the financial pressures that local councils are under, partly due to cuts from national government since 2010, but sacrificing our cultural services is not the answer.

“We have to find a way to keep funding them alongside other services – it shouldn’t be an either/or.”

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The second most talked about item in the consultation was for the council to improve environmental protection, which received 351 responses.

In the comments and suggestions section, 95 people talked about this including not developing over 2,000 homes on the Maidenhead golf course.

Thirty per cent of residents were neutral that the council was ‘good value for money,’ whereas 29 per cent ‘somewhat disagreed’ it was.

In a follow-up question, locals wanted the council to improve its waste service’ with some demanding a return to the weekly black bin collection.

The budget and the consultation results will be debated at a cabinet meeting on Thursday, February 10.