An update on Woking Borough Council’s financial position was discussed by members of the Executive during last Thursday’s meeting (14 July 2022), as part of its financial strategy.
The Medium-Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) reflects the Council’s four-year financial plan and the increased pressure and challenges it faces due to cost of living increases, higher inflation, slower than expected economic recovery, reduced income streams and increased service demand.
The strategy stresses the need for a prudent, responsible and sustainable approach to council finances that will secure approximately £11 million in savings over the next four years to reduce and remove the reliance on council reserves.
Cllr Dale Roberts, Woking Borough Council’s Portfolio Holder for Economic Development and Finance, said: “The financial challenge faced by the Council through increased costs and a slower than expected recovery is more serious than previously anticipated.
“Most significantly income from commercial rents and parking charges are considerably down. The changing patterns of working, commuting, and the way we spend our leisure time all have implications for our town centre economy. We will adapt but we must also respond to the immediate impact.
“We have also made the prudent decision to reduce our reliance on income generated through our wholly-owned companies such as Thameswey. This will go hand-in-hand with a financial performance review and governance changes.
“All local authorities across the country will be dealing with the same inflationary challenges. We must respond to these higher levels of inflation and the realities of reduced income from commercial ventures.
“The financial challenges which lay ahead mean that this administration is focused on ensuring that our financial position is resilient, affordable, responsible and sustainable.”
Responding to the Council’s financial position, several key areas are being assessed to support the delivery of major change. These include:
- reviewing council owned company governance and financing models
- establishing stronger commercial operating principles
- using the Council’s assets to leverage greater inward investment within the borough
- working in partnership to reduce costs and increase opportunities
- identifying the full range of financing and treasury management flexibilities
- reviewing and capitalising on all income generation opportunities
- developing procurement category management plans for key areas of spend
- ensuring statutory services continue to be delivered and prioritising expenditure for services that make the greatest contribution to achieving the Woking for All strategy.
The Council is preparing to submit an investment plan that would enable it to access £1million from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC). The funding would be used to support the creation of an innovation hub, implementation of additional green infrastructure within the borough and support Surrey County Council’s decarbonisation loan scheme for small and medium sized businesses.
The MTFS will continue to be reviewed and updated over the summer to bring forward cost efficiencies and savings which enable the Council to manage its resources over the short and medium term.