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Windsor councillor calls meeting chair 'rude and bombastic' and walks out

Adrian Williams

Adrian Williams

An online meeting of the Windsor Town Forum descended into a series of fractious exchanges on Wednesday night – leading one councillor to walk out of the meeting in protest.

The forum was discussing Dedworth Library, which is facing a reduction in opening hours so the council can save money.

Dedworth Library is set to have its hours cut from 36.5 hours (12 morning, afternoon or evening sessions) down to 13 hours (4-5 sessions) from September. Each session costs £3,000 to run.

Cllrs Amy Tisi (Lib Dem, Clewer East), Jon Davey (WWRA, Clewer & Dedworth West) and Helen Price (TBF, Clewer & Dedworth East) have been working on how to best support the library.

Cllr Price said they were ‘shocked’ to learn that the library is paying £16,000 of business rates for a building that is currently empty and suggested that the service become a CIC or charity instead.

The councillors have also looked into support from major employers, how to better increase rates of letting for the hall, and ideas on how to convert the unused boiler room into community use.

One concern raised was that library users may not be online which makes it difficult to engage in public conversations about the library during lockdown.

“The Dedworth library is currently shut and won’t be opening, we think, until a few days before the consultation closes,” said Cllr Price.

“Many of the users don’t use social media and under current restrictions, how do we reach them?”

Cllr Davey spoke out against decreases in the budget for the library service, also striking out against other departments in the council that he said are ‘so dysfunctional, it’s unbelievable’.

At this point chairman Cllr John Bowden (Con, Eton and Castle) interrupted and said Cllr Davey should not refer to the council as ‘dysfunctional’ in a Windsor Town Forum meeting.

“That’s how I see it and that’s how the residents see it. We have got problems and we’ve got to deal with those,” Cllr Davey replied.

On two occasions, council officers attending the meeting were forced to step in as councillors began to discuss things which were not on the agenda.

The officers said this was unfair to members of the public who might have tuned into the meeting had they known these topics were going to be under discussion.

After an exchange between councillors veered off into the subject of the Royal Borough’s property portfolio, Cllr Neil Knowles (OWRA, Old Windsor) questioned the way which comments were being dealt with.

“I don’t think slapping people down like that is the way to run a meeting,” he said.

Cllr Bowden replied: “Thank you for your criticism, as the chair I have the right to do that.”

“I’m leaving the meeting now, because like a lot of people, I’ve had it up to here with you and your rude and bombastic attitude,” said Cllr Knowles, then left.

Cllr Bowden had previously been drawn into an argument with a resident – for bringing up Brexit while talking about the Windsor Town Council – and ended up muting him.

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