Last night, members agreed the actions needed to return Woking Borough Council to a path of financial and operational sustainability.
The extraordinary meeting of Full Council was convened following the issuing of a Section 114 (3) Notice by the council’s Section 151 Officer and Interim Director of Finance, which laid bare the scale of the council’s financial shortfall.
Members discussed the issues outlined in the Notice and the implications of stopping all but essential expenditure.
They noted the Directions issued by the Secretary of State on 25 May 2023 and the requirement to prepare an Improvement and Recovery Plan within six months of the intervention and to the satisfaction of the Commissioners. The plan will draw upon the contents and recommendations of the non-statutory External Assurance Review published on 25 May 2023, and align with the work already undertaken by the council to achieve financial stability.
Members agreed to eight recommendations put forward by the Chief Executive in her response to the Notice. These recommendations include a programme of savings to bridge a £10million budget gap in 2024/25, the development of an asset disposal strategy to sit alongside a commercial strategy for the borough, and approaching central government to explore the prospect of financial support.
Speaking after the meeting Cllr Barker, Leader of Woking Borough Council, said: “It’s vitally important that members understand and accept the gravity of the financial situation and what’s required of the council in these early stages of our financial recovery. That’s what tonight’s meeting was about.
“I spoke at the meeting about my pride in the borough of Woking. It is a great place to live and work. I welcome the support of council colleagues and hope we can all move forward together to keep Woking borough a place that everyone wants to live and work.
“I know residents will join me in welcoming a review by our incoming auditors, Grant Thornton, of the decisions and actions that have contributed to the challenges now facing the council. Without this understanding and accountability it will be significantly more challenging to build the required level of momentum behind our recovery and improvement plans.
“For now it is very much business as usual for everyday council services. Your bins will still be collected, council rents should be paid, housing repairs done and planning applications decided.
"There will however be changes in the future. We will need to make difficult decisions about how we deliver services for local people working with a wide range of partners, including the voluntary sector across Woking. We will treat everybody fairly, ask for input and inform everyone as we travel this challenging road.”
For more information about Woking’s financial situation and the government measures in place, please visit www.woking.gov.uk/governmentintervention