Woking’s Borrowing is Sky High

February 16, 2021 11:50 AM

Woking Council's recent meeting confirmed the sky high borrowing the borough has taken on.

Having borrowed £1.4 billion from the government funded Public Works Loan Board (PWLB) the Conservative Council's borrowing currently stands at an eye-watering £35,000 for each Woking household.

Last week's Council meeting learned that the Victoria Square development, with its skyscraper towers, will now cost £700 million to complete. The flagship project, running late due to delays in rebuilding a car park and the impact of Covid, was originally to require only a £750,000 contribution from the borough. Victoria Square is due to open later this year, against a backdrop of key retailers such as Debenhams and Top Shop closing down. The borrowing will be paid back over half a century.

Ann-Marie BarkerSpeaking at the Council meeting Lib Dem Leader Ann-Marie Barker said "The cost of this project [Victoria Square] has only gone one way. Like the towers the project has built, costs have gone up, up and up."

In a triple whammy Covid has reduced the Council's income from car parking and both retail and commercial rents. Despite receiving some government help, to make up some of the shortfall, Woking needs more. The Conservative Leader, Ayesha Azad, has gone cap in hand to government asking to defer losses, so they can be paid off over the next 50 years

Frustrated by little evidence of cost savings sought on Victoria Square Cllr Barker got the support of Council to agree officers should seek and report back on any efficiency savings that could be made without compromising the quality of the final deliverable.

On the Council's wider financial position Cllr Barker called for the Council to "take a long hard look at what will make a sustainable future for Woking Borough Council".