What is the state of Woking Council Finances?

July 8, 2020 6:46 PM
By Cllr Ann-Marie Barker

Liberal Democrat Leader frustrated at Conservative failure to provide financial information to councillors and public

Woking Liberal Democrat Leader Cllr Ann-Marie Barker this week revealed her frustration at the Conservative Council's failure to provide forecasts on the likely future impact of Covid on Council finances to councillors and residents.

"I've been requesting financial information on the state of the Conservative run council for months" fumed Cllr Barker. "Other Surrey boroughs, including neighbouring Guildford, have provided forecasts on their likely future financial position to local democratically elected representatives and the public. Woking has failed to do this".

Residents are asking their local councillors about the state of Council finances. The public know Woking has a heavy reliance on car parking income, which has been zero from lockdown to end of June, and is unlikely to return to normal levels for some time. Residents are aware that Woking has bought lots of retail, restaurant and commercial space in the borough and achieves income from rents. All these sectors have been hard hit by Covid.

"Café Rouge, Carluccios and Las Iguanas are all closing, the site of the failed Tante Marie business, which benefitted from Council support, is still empty and with a slow return to the traditional office there must be an impact on Council revenue." pointed out Cllr Barker.

"In addition the Victoria Square project has inevitably been delayed by the crisis, and extra costs are likely to be incurred to bring that project to completion" she concluded.

"The Council tells us any figures would be guesswork as nobody knows what will happen later in the year but surely all forecasts include an element of guesswork?

Residents are concerned to know if they will be asked to pay more Council Tax next year. Voluntary groups who benefit from the Council's excellent grant scheme are worried that they will not get the funds they need to keep their services running next year.

"Councillors and residents demand answers. This is our borough. Don't keep us in the dark - What is the financial situation of Woking Council and how is the impact of Covid likely to affect us all in the years to come?"

"It is of some reassurance to know that Council reserves, funds retained for unexpected crises such as Covid, and funding provided by government should cover the direct costs incurred in responding to the crisis" concluded Cllr Barker.