Wokingham Borough Council has been accused of taking the “nuclear option” after it agreed to take back responsibility for dealing with noise complaints and a range of other issues.

The Conservative-run council has decided to leave the Public Protection Partnership (PPP) in March 2022.

The PPP was set up by Wokingham Borough Council, West Berkshire Council and Bracknell Forest Council in 2017.

It is now responsible for trading standards investigations and responds to noise complaints, bonfires, anti-social behaviour, food hygiene issues, pest infestations, pollution problems and animal welfare concerns.

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But Wokingham Borough Council says it can now deal with these issues “more effectively” than the PPP.

“We cannot leave it to others. We have to take responsibility,” said Cllr John Halsall, leader of the council.

“Currently our residents blame us and hold us responsible for these duties. They are more than a little puzzled that we do not have any authority at the moment.

“The PPP works at our request, but we do not have the power to set their priorities to ensure that any resident has the service that they have the right to expect nor that which we wish to give.

“We aim to tailor service delivery at a locality level.

“This will give rise to a clearer cohesive response to issues that confront our communities, such as anti-social behaviour, fly tipping, unauthorised encampments, noise, bonfires, neighbourhood disputes.”

He added: “Initially, we shall replicate what currently exists but no doubt in time the service will dynamically respond to resident demands on a real-time basis.”

The PPP currently charges the council more than £1.3 million a year for its services.

Liberal Democrat and Labour councillors opposed the decision to leave the PPP, but it was approved by a majority vote at a meeting on March 18.

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Cllr Prue Bray (Liberal Democrat) said: “We don’t think enough has been done to try to sort out the problems with the partnership before taking what is effectively the nuclear option.

“Not only that but we have doubts as to whether bringing these services back in house will actually be a magic cure.

“The joint board minutes show little evidence that anyone from Wokingham has made an effort to change things, but plenty of evidence of services being hampered by failure to sort out the IT, the service level agreements, the case management system and the accommodation.”

She added: “Why is abandoning the shared service the answer? We will have a less resilient service with fewer specialist staff, and less ability to spread overhead costs.

“And of course there’s the opportunity for IT, case management, staffing issues to arise during the transition.

“We are being asked to vote through an irreversible process of leaving the partnership before we have any concrete plans for what we would replace it with.”