Fringe Box



Dragon Interview: Three Leading GBC Councillors on the Budget Problem

Published on: 31 Aug, 2023
Updated on: 1 Sep, 2023

L-R: Cllrs David Bilbe (Con), Richard Lucas (Lib Dem) and Joss Bigmore (R4GV)

By Martin Giles

The lead councillor for finance at Guildford Borough Council, Richard Lucas (Lib Dem, Ash Vale) last night refused to quantify the risk of the council having to issue a Section 114 notice, effectively declaring itself bankrupt.

He was interviewed alongside Cllrs David Bilbe (Con, Normandy) Finance spokesman for the Tory Group, and Joss Bigmore leader of the Residents for Guildford & Villages group, following an extraordinary full council meeting to debate the latest council budget update report.

At the meeting, with the exception of the Conservative group which abstained, councillors endorsed the report and the proposed actions it contained.

Cllr Julia McShane

There appeared to be little choice and the council leader pleaded for cross-party cooperation saying: “Given that we are all councillors, responsible and accountable to our residents for our finances, we all need to be working together with our officer team as well to make sure that we can work through this very difficult situation and time and all have an opportunity to contribute to how we solve this problem.”

The council also approved the delegation of powers to allow progress of the Weyside Urban Village project for 1,500 new homes and the move of the Sewage Treatment Works to Slyfield.

Please watch the interview here…

Cllr Lucas was keen to stress when interviewed that any borrowing requirement for the Weyside project was not a factor in the council’s medium-term financial plan.

The overall mood of the meeting was subdued and it seemed clear that any extra clarity of the council’s precise financial situation had not brought relief, instead more clarity had brought greater concern.

Cllr Joss Bigmore who had criticised July’s update report as too pessimistic summed up the situation saying it had changed from a £1.6 million deficit, with a year to solve it, to a £2.6 million deficit to balance in just eight months.

Councils by law have to balance their books each financial year, and if they cannot the Section 114 notice is the formal way of notifying the government of the situation. As has happened at Woking Borough Council, once the notice is issued, financial control is taken away from councillors and given to government commissioners.

Richard Bates

Earlier in the GBC meeting, the appointment of a new interim chief finance officer, Richard Bates, had been approved.

He warned the meeting that difficult decisions would have to be made, adding that he was speaking to department heads in turn to identify where the savings can be found.

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Responses to Dragon Interview: Three Leading GBC Councillors on the Budget Problem

  1. Oscar de Chazal Reply

    September 2, 2023 at 9:21 am

    Thank you, Martin Giles and Dragon team, for again bringing a level of insight on local matters and balanced journalism that we wouldn’t get elsewhere.

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