Fringe Box



Woking Receives ‘Unprecedented’ Government Bailout

Published on: 8 Mar, 2024
Updated on: 8 Mar, 2024

By Chris Caulfield

local democracy reporter

Woking Borough Council is to receive an “exceptional” £785 million Government bailout. The money was offered on condition that it raised its share of Council Tax by 10 per cent.

The major bailout package aims to offset its debt and was signed off on Monday (March 4) during a full council meeting. The deal comes after the previously agreed £8.4 million in spending cuts.

Cllr Will Forster

Deputy leader of the council Will Forster (Lib Dem, Hoe Valley) said the total package of £785 million was “the largest ever set of measures required for a council in intervention” He added: “Just let that sink in. Not the largest ever in Surrey, the largest ever in the country, not this year, ever.”

Coupled with the rises announced by Surrey County Council and the police, Band D homes in Woking will now pay £2,371.60 a year, up from £2,248.77.

Councillors were faced with little choice. Had they failed to agree on the package, the local authority would “grind to a halt and be acting unlawfully” the meeting heard. Staff would go unpaid and services stop.

Cllr Anne-Marie Barker

Council Leader Ann-Marie Barker (Lib Dem, Goldsworth Park), said a vote against the tax rise was a vote against the Government’s offer.

She said: “I wanted a better offer but it’s the offer we’ve got.”

The council also announced that there would be £100,000 in hardship money to help ease some of the pain caused by the massive spending cuts, price hikes and tax rises.

Groups such as the Bustler transport service, Citizens Advice Woking and the Lightbox have been forced to find new funding if they wish to continue. Some have approached the national lottery.

Woking Council has said the money would be for those most impacted by the added cost or loss of so many services.  It includes £25,000 for a Council Tax hardship fund, £50,000 for Citizen Advice Woking and £25,000 for grants that replicate the Government’s Household Support Fund.

Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Barker said: “Despite the council’s complex financial situation, I am pleased that we have overcome this important hurdle and set a robust budget for the forthcoming financial year.

“I welcome the significant and unprecedented support package offered by Government which gives us flexibility to deal with money that should have been put aside for borrowing and allows us to capitalise our debt over the long term.

“The conditions set out by Government align with work already being undertaken on asset rationalisation, debt reduction and improved commercial governance as part of our Improvement and recovery plan.

“I know residents will find any increase in council tax difficult which is why we are putting in place support for those who find it hard to meet the cost of rising bills.

“These critical decisions are ones I did not want to make. However, they are necessary if we are to continue to provide essential services, set a balanced budget in future years and begin to return Woking to long-term financial sustainability.

“The future remains difficult and challenging. I am determined that Woking will recover to become a better council, focused on delivering essential services to local people.”

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