Fringe Box



PM ‘Confident’ Conservatives Will Hold Onto Woking

Published on: 12 Apr, 2024
Updated on: 14 Apr, 2024

Woking Parliamentary constituency no longer includes parts of Guildford Borough. This map replaces one included erroneously in an earlier version of this article. Apologies for our error.

By Emily Dalton

local democracy reporter

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he was “confident” that Conservatives will hold onto Woking in the upcoming local and general elections, when he was grilled about why people should vote for a party that allowed the local council to go bankrupt.

The PM was at Woking Community Hospital on Thursday (April 11) where he was grilled about the fate of the Conservative party by reporters.

Rishi Sunak PM

The PM pointed to the UK economy in response to questions about why Woking residents should vote for a party that allowed the local council to go bankrupt.

Woking Council declared bankruptcy in June 2023 after it admitted a risky investment spree into hotels and skyscrapers by its former Conservative administration.

Calling Woking’s investments a “cross-party” decision, Rishi said local councils are “in control of their own finances”, and urged they run their budgets “in a sensible manner to deliver to their residents”.

Citing the national picture, Rishi said inflation has “more than halved” to 3.4 per cent in February 2024, wages have increased ahead of inflation, taxes have been cut and free childcare has been expanded to working families.

He added: “While we have been through a tough few years as a country, that’s been difficult for families in Surrey, I do believe that the start of this year we have turned a corner and we’re now heading in the right direction.

“Our plan is working, if we stick to our plan we can give everyone in Surrey and Woking the peace of mind that there is a brighter future for them and their family.”

Woking is set to go to the polls on May 2 to vote for a third of the council (10 seats) in the local elections. Since news first emerged about the borough’s financial crisis, his party lost control of the council, and saw its share of councillors drop to four (from 17 in 2016).

Jonathan Lord the current Woking MP

MP Jonathan Lord won 49 per cent of the vote in the 2019 election, with Liberal Democrat candidate Will Forster coming second at 31 per cent. One poll from Electoral Calculus predicts Jonathan will win a narrow victory of just 31 per cent, with Lib Dem and Labour closely at its heels with 28 per cent and 24 per cent respectively.

Although the Woking MP was present during the media pool, he made no further comment.

The PM argued central government has put more funding into councils, claiming local councils have on average 7.5 per cent more funding than 2023. A further £600 million has also been put into local authorities for 2024-25.

He said: “Central government is doing its bit to support [local councils] with considerably more funding.”

Despite the added funding, Woking Council said it has to make £8.4 million savings for year one of its five-year financial strategy. Closing most public toilets, ending grants to voluntary and community groups, reducing dial-a-ride services and losing up to 60 staff are some of the cuts the council has made to make ends meet.

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Responses to PM ‘Confident’ Conservatives Will Hold Onto Woking

  1. Roshan Bailey Reply

    April 12, 2024 at 4:29 pm

    Normandy and Pirbright, although in Guildford Borough, were for many years in Woking Parliamentary constituency but the 2023 Boundary Commission review has now sent us to Surrey Heath. It was a question of balancing the sizes of constituencies with Surrey now having 12 instead of 11 due to population expansion. Numbers trumped local residents’ arguments about natural communities, and we will no longer have any say in Jonathan Lord’s future, and instead are likely to have to choose between Michael Gove and his challengers.

    Editor’s response. Many thanks for pointing out my error for which I apologise. I thought the map was post-review. It has now been substituted.

  2. John Perkins Reply

    April 13, 2024 at 5:15 pm

    Rather than Rishi Sunak’s sanguine view, another way of looking at inflation is that prices are still increasing at 3.4% per year. Considerably more the the Bank of England target of 2%.

    Perhaps “wages have increased ahead of inflation”, but I suspect only for some, such as train drivers. Averages can be very misleading, easily illustrated by including a billionaire in any group of fewer than several million people, or even Mr Sunak himself in smaller set.

    In any case, he doesn’t answer the question of why people should vote for politicians who allowed a local authority to go bust.

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