Fringe Box



Woking Residents to be Asked What Services to Keep After Financial Disaster Hits Home

Published on: 28 Jun, 2023
Updated on: 27 Jun, 2023

By Chris Caulfield

local democracy reporter

Residents will be asked what services they value most as Woking Borough Council undergoes a “full restructure” to become smaller and cheaper.

Woking bosses began discussions with representatives from the public sector union Unison before it issued its section 114 notice when it effectively declared itself bankrupt.

Woking Borough Council offices. Photo by Chris Caulfield.

The move is part of a series of measures designed to make it a “smaller council” as part of its pathway out of its expected £2.6 billion debt.

It will soon start consulting residents on what services should be spared the deepest and harshest of cuts.

The council has said it is part of the process of demonstrating to government that everything is being done to cut spending ahead of any bailout request.

A spokesperson for Woking Borough Council said it would “inevitably mean that the organisation will be smaller” and that it understood these were “unsettling times” for its staff.

Jenny Mason, Unison’s regional representative for Woking, said despite the looming threat of major job cuts it maintained a “good relationship” with the council.

She said: “Discussions have been going on with senior management for a long time before the announcement was made because they knew the section 114 notice was coming”.

Massive borrowing by Woking Borough Council on the Victoria Place scheme waa partly to blame for the financial disaster the residents of Woking are having to pay for. Picture Google.

The debts were amassed primarily on the back of massive borrowing between 2016 and 2019 to pay for regeneration projects such as Victoria Place and at Sheerwater.

Mrs Mason added: “They have been open and honest and invited individuals to the staff briefing. It will be a full council restructure they are looking at.

“Staff are understandably concerned and upset. The financial situations have been semi-known. There are concerns about what the future of Woking Borough Council will be like.”

She said the council is helping staff including “scheduling training events and working together with the union.”

At this stage there have been no formal consultations held with staff, or proposals shared with the union as the council looks to consult with residents over the services it wants to keep and those to chop.

Ms Mason said: “Internally, staff structures are all under review. In terms of services we just don’t know”, when or where the axe will fall.

Local authorities in Surrey operate under a two-tier system, with the larger county council responsible for services that impact the region more widely, such as transport, fire and rescue, education and social care.

Cuts would only impact council services the Woking Borough Council provides.

Statutory services it provides include planning and waste management.

Even within statutory services there is scope for cut backs – for example, it could reduce the frequency waste and recycling is collected or scale back its planning department.

Services provided by councils – Surrey services are protected from Woking’s financial disaster

Surrey County Council Woking Borough Council
Birth, marriage and death registrations Collection of Council Tax and business rates
Education Environmental health
Fire and rescue Public and private housing
Highways Local plans
Libraries Planning applications
Recreation, arts and museums Public toilets
Social care Arts and museums
Strategic planning Sports and sports centres
Trading standards Parks and open spaces
Transport Car parks and parking
Waste disposal Footpaths
Waste collection and recycling
Street cleaning


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