06:15PM, Thursday 26 May 2016
A charity for young ice skaters with special needs says it has become caught up in a ‘political wrangle’ after a crucial meeting to provide it with a temporary home was blocked.
Special People On Ice (SPICE) faces eviction from its current home at Absolutely Ice as the council starts a £7.9m refurbishment of the Montem Lane centre.
The group is in a race against time to find a new home while the work takes place, or it could face closure.
The Express has learned an extraordinary cabinet meeting was due to take place on Wednesday when it was expected councillors would hear a temporary ice arena for the charity to use had been found.
But Slough Borough Council (SBC) confirmed that after nine days in office, the newly elected Mayor of Slough, Cllr Arvind Dhaliwal, did not give permission for the meeting to take place.
The council constitution states that in the event of an urgent decision needing to be voted on and there being no chair of the overview and scrutiny committee, the mayor has the power to grant permission for it to take place.
Currently no committee members have been appointed after the last full council meeting was adjourned due to a motion being submitted calling for the removal of Cllr Rob Anderson as council leader.
A SBC spokeswoman said: “We can confirm a special cabinet was proposed to hear an urgent matter.
“Under the constitution and in the current circumstances we were required to get permission from the mayor to consider an urgent item.
“The mayor did not grant that permission. Therefore there is no special cabinet meeting.”
An email from Cllr Anderson to SPICE chairman Richard Hodgson confirms the council has ‘potentially sourced’ a temporary ice rink from a supplier and was ready to formalise the decision.
Cllr Anderson added the next chance for a meeting will be June 19 which may be ‘too late’ and could mean SBC ‘lose the rink to another town’. He says that in his 19 years on the council this is the first time he has known a mayor to take this decision.
The email says: “His role is normally ceremonial and he does not even vote in council meetings to protect his impartiality. So it is quite extraordinary he has refused to grant a special cabinet meeting for this important issue.”
Mr Hodgson said the decision was ‘incredibly frustrating’.
He added: “My concern is we are a little special needs charity and we have found ourselves caught up in a political wrangle.
“I do not know much about what is going on in the party but I do not care, I care about the vulnerable kids of Slough.”
Speaking to the Express, the mayor said blocking the meeting had ‘nothing to do with party politics’.
He added: “I had to follow the constitution; I have to follow the rules. The rules are meant to be followed and not broken.”
But SBC confirmed this was not the case and the mayor was within his rights to agree to the meeting taking place.