Woking Borough Council
Local Democracy Reporting Service
David Bittleston has unexpectedly stepped down as leader of Woking Borough Council.
He has been elected six times over the last 20 years to represent his Mount Hermon ward, and will still represent them.
He told councillors at a meeting on Thursday the council needed to recruit a new chief executive and now was the right time for him to hand over the leadership.
He said he and other group leaders would next month be recommending that the council considers retaining chief executive Ray Morgan’s services on a part-time basis.
He said: “I know that many people, councillors, members of staff and residents of Woking are very concerned that the loss of Ray Morgan’s input, particularly in the key strategic projects, like Victoria Square, Sheerwater regeneration and the Victoria Arch project, would be a mistake.”
Mr Bittleston thanked Mr Morgan, “who I suspect I have spent more time with over the last 10 years than anybody except my wife.
“A successful council can only be run where there is a shared vision between the chief executive and the leader. Ray and I have worked extremely well together. He asks, and I say no, works every time.”
Neither party managed to take a majority in Woking.
Ten of the 30 seats on the council were on offer. Both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats won four apiece, with Labour and an independent candidate each taking one.
The Tories, which lost one seat, continue to have the most seats, but no overall control, at 14.
The Lib Dems, which gained one seat, took their total to 10.
Labour and independent councillors each hold three seats.
A new dress code for taxi drivers in Woking could ban "bare chests, baseball caps, flip flops and hoodies".
Woking Borough Council plans to introduce new conditions on taxi licenses after it received complaints that drivers were "dressing in a manner that is considered to be unprofessional."
The dress code, which would apply to drivers of Hackney carriages and private hire vehicles, will also prevent drivers from wearing "clothing with offensive words, sports wear promoting sports teams" or "clothing with studs".
Karen Barlow, of the National Private Hire and Taxi Association, said it was broadly supportive of the dress code. "They don't say you have got to wear a three piece suit," she said. "At one time drivers were there in their flip flops and shorts in the summer. That's not very professional."
Woking Borough Council said the guidelines were "similar to those imposed by other authorities".
Local Democracy Reporter
A project to update car parking payment systems in one Surrey borough has been labelled a "good investment for the town".
Nearly £2m is going to be spent installing the latest technology for car parks in Woking if councillors agree the scheme next week.
Woking Borough Council's Executive committee voted to put forward the recommendations at their meeting on 7 February.
The existing car park equipment is over 10 years old, but the new system could include signs to inform drivers where there are spaces or even registration number plate recognition for paperless payment.Quote Message: The marketplace is vibrant with all the different types of systems and we have got a decision about what is best for the town. It's a good investment for our town centre." from Councillor Colin Kemp Portfolio holder for parking, Woking Borough Council
Local Democracy Reporter
A popular ice cream vendor has been told he can return to a Woking park - but only until the end of October.
More than 1,000 supporters had signed a petition calling for father and son Carlos and Joe Bellenca to be granted permission to trade after being forced to close when a cafe kiosk opened in Easter last year.
On 7 February members of the Woking Borough Council executive agreed to put forward a recommendation to full council, which will meet next week, that Mr Bellenca is allowed to trade in Woking Park near the bandstand from 1 March until 31 October and in Goldsworth Park Recreation Ground from 1 April - 30 September.
However, the recommendation opens up the opportunity for other "interested parties" to express an interest in operating mobile food vans in "suitable venues owned by the council" from 2020 and onwards.
During the meeting on Thursday Councillor Colin Kemp, portfolio holder, apologised for misleading the family and members of the public at the December council meeting, when he implied there was an exclusive clause in the contract which said there could only be one vendor operating at the park.
BBC NewsCopyright: PA
An ongoing investigation into an incident at a fireworks display in Surrey last year when eight children fell from an inflatable slide will be "thorough", the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has said.
A major incident was declared at Woking Park on 3 November after the children, all under the age of 16, fell during the evening.
It is believed the children fell to the ground from the top of the slide, which was about 30ft (9m) high.
None were seriously injured.
An HSE spokesperson said it was not appropriate to discuss details or comment further as it was "a live investigation".
Local Democracy ReporterCopyright: Getty Images
Taxi drivers in Woking are to undergo a trial to see how much money they would save if they switched to an electric vehicle, as part of an attempt to cut down on air pollution in the area.
About 15% of Hackney cabs licensed with Woking Borough Council - about 25 cabbies - will be asked to take part in the experiment. It will assess how many trips they could make with an e-taxi, where the most appropriate places for charging points would be and create business cases for the drivers to show how much money and fuel they will save.
A start date for the three-month trial has not yet been set.
Local Democracy ReporterCopyright: Rolfe Judd
A homeless shelter and purpose-built hostel for services provided by the York Road Project in Woking, Surrey, has moved one step closer.
Councillors have approved funding for the £7.6m scheme and agreed to put forward £160,000 from council accounts every year from 2022-23 onwards.
The money will come from a £5.5m loan and capital receipts from help-to-buy schemes.
Members welcomed the construction of the purpose-built hostel in Church Street West at Woking Borough Council's executive meeting yesterday.
Council leader David Bittleston said: "I'm delighted we are able to do this. This is a very important thing to do."
The proposed site is currently owned by Prime Place, which will carry out the development as part of its wider development of Goldsworth Road North.
A planning application is expected by April 2019, with development due to start in June 2020.
Local Democracy Reporter
Owners of day care and boarding homes for dogs in Woking will now need a licence to run their business at a cost of £188.
Woking Borough Council (WBC) is introducing the fees as part of a review of charges for some of its own services.
People who sell animals as pets, hire out horses, run kennels or catteries, or keep or train animals for performance will also need a licence, with a first-time application costing £198.
The council's fees and charges were approved by members of WBC Executive on Thursday.
Changes have also been made to the charges for guest artists working at tattoo parlours and salons offering electrolysis or ear piercing.
Opposition councillor Ann-Marie Barker, from the Liberal Democrats, said the cost of a licence was "a little on the high side".
Councillor Ayesha Azad, deputy leader of the council, said: "Charges for animal licensing are based upon an officer's hourly rate and full cost recovery and not profit."
Local Democracy ReporterCopyright: Thamesway Development Ltd
A power station with a block of communal student-style digs for key workers and university graduates has been refused planning permission.
The application for the 17-storey building in Woking had been submitted by Thamesway Group - a development company set up by Woking Borough Council.
Councillors went against the advice of officers and experts saying they could not "morally" or "ethically" support the tower block with "suffocating" rooms.
They voted against the application for Poole Road based on mass and bulk concerns, parking problems and design issues.
Four voted to refuse the application with three voting against refusal.
Local Democracy Reporter
Only one borough council in Surrey has voted to support a nationwide campaign to exempt people leaving the care system from paying council tax.
Councillor Will Forster, current mayor for Woking Borough Council, said: "In April when new council tax statements are sent out young care leavers have that avenue to get some tax relief so they can make a successful transition to adulthood."
One more borough council is "close to agreeing" the exemption.
Mr Forster also called on Surrey County Council (SCC) cabinet member for children, councillor Clare Curran to write to the other nine councils "who have no immediate plans" and "urge them" to take the same action.
The nationwide campaign to exempt care leavers from paying council tax until they reach 25 was adopted as a motion by SCC in March.
Local Democracy ReporterCopyright: BBC
Boroughs across Surrey are to be given more powers to enforce bus lanes and fine motorists driving in them.
A pilot scheme using a camera to enforce the use of bus lanes in Woking High Street is to be rolled out across the county.
Camera enforcement started in March and Woking Borough Council said there had been a "positive reduction in contravening traffic".
The number of drivers flouting the bus lane rules reduced from 120 a day to 40.
Motorists are fined £60, but that is reduced to £30 if paid within 14 days.
There are 13 bus lanes in Surrey with another four actively under consideration.
Local Democracy ReporterCopyright: PA
A proposal is being put forward to try to stop the "unsightly" and "disgusting" habit of people spitting chewing gum out onto the street.
Councillor Ken Howard is pushing for Woking Borough Council (WBC) to provide bins in a bid to reduce the amount of gum that gets stuck to shoes or plastered on the ground.
The Liberal Democrat councillor says so much has been done to make Woking town centre look smart that it could be even nicer if there were fewer bits of gum around the place.
"This has been a bugbear of mine for quite a while," he said.
He added that it was particularly bad in Church Path and he often saw people getting it stuck to their shoes.
"It's unsightly and it's a disgusting habit spitting it out onto the ground.
"It's very hard to catch people spitting it out."
He is proposing at full council meeting this Thursday that WBC looks at using recyclable bins, made from gum, to dot around the town centre.
If passed, it will be sent to executive council members for consideration.
In 2017, the Local Government Association said it cost local authorities nearly £60m a year to remove gum.
It estimated the average piece of gum costs about 3p to buy, but can be up to 50 times that to clean up per square metre.
Local Democracy ReporterCopyright: LDR
Parents fighting to get a much-loved playground refurbished say they cannot wait for the work to begin after receiving the backing of villagers in a council consultation.
But they say they will keep up their campaign to protect West Byfleet Recreation Ground from any development - including a proposed pub.
Woking Borough Council gave residents the choice of backing an original plan championed by mums Rebecca Bradshaw and Emma Slaymaker two years ago to refurbish the existing playground next to West Byfleet Junior School in Camphill Road.
Or for a newer, more expensive and bigger playground on the other side of the park.
The recreation ground is also the site identified by Marstons Brewery in an exhibition they held last year with designs to build a family restaurant and pub.
But in papers to go to Woking Borough Council Executive on Thursday, results from the consultation show overwhelming support for the original proposal.
It is hoped the refurbishment will be completed by "early Spring 2019" - three years after the council first approved £35,000 funding for the play area and SCC awarded £25,000.
Marston's Brewery has been approached for comment.
Local Democracy Reporter
Campaigners trying to stop a pub being built on a village recreation ground in Surrey have submitted a complaint about their council to the Charity Commission.
Save West Byfleet Recreation Ground Campaign Group say Woking Borough Council failed to fulfil its legal duties as sole trustee of the Recreation Ground Charity. They claim a proposal to sell part of the land to pub and brewery operator Marstons is "unlawful".
Woking Borough Council is in the last few days of a consultation over the future of the recreation ground and plans to refurbish it.Copyright: LDR