The Local Government Minister Lee Rowley MP made a written statement to the House of Commons on Thursday 25th May 2023. He has also written to the Council Leadership regarding the report into the financial state of Woking Borough Council. This report is the culmination of a year long process, and as a result, urgent government action is deemed necessary to protect the interests of the residents of Woking. Three commissioners have been appointed to oversee and support the Council in its financial management and decision making from this point forwards.
Woking becomes the fifth council to require government support with its finances in recent years, including very recently, the previously Labour-run Council of Slough. Several other authorities have warned they are also struggling to balance the books.
Under the advice and guidance of senior council officers, both the Conservative Councillor Group and the Liberal Democrat Councillor Group worked on an overtly cross-party basis and voted for a series of projects that have subsequently led to Woking’s financial difficulties.
Blame-gaming will not deliver for residents. It is appropriate that those councillors who voted in a way that got us into these financial difficulties should take responsibility and I now call on both the Conservative Councillor Group and Liberal Democrat Councillor Group to apologise. It is vital that all councillors, from all parties, should now work constructively together to get Woking’s finances back on track”.
Since it became clear that Woking Council faced huge financial challenges, I have been speaking about these issues with the Secretary of State for Levelling-Up, Housing and Communities and with the Minister of State for Local Government, in addition to my regular update meetings with the Chief Executive of Woking Borough Council, Julie Fisher.
I have assured Ms Fisher that I will support very actively any efforts by the Council to try to secure appropriate further support from the government or other stakeholders as these financial challenges are fully worked through over time.