Budget approved despite financial challenges


Tuesday, 5 March, 2024

Woking Borough Council’s budget for 2024/25 was approved by elected members during last night’s Extraordinary Full Council meeting (Monday 4 March 2024).

Approval of the budget was possible following the offer and acceptance of a Government support package and £8.4 million worth of service reductions and savings.

The package of support will enable the council’s debt repayment provision, known as Minimum Revenue Provision, to be deferred. In addition, the council will receive a 'capitalisation direction’, which will enable it to treat some unaffordable revenue costs, such as interest payments for its debt, as capital. Both of these represent positive steps until a longer-term solution to address the council's debt position can be found.
As part of the support, Government considered it appropriate and proportionate for Woking Borough Council’s share of the annual Council Tax charge to rise by 9.99% from 1 April 2024.

The increase means that a Band D household will pay £289.43 a year, an increase of £26.31, equivalent to just over 50 pence a week, for services such as waste and recycling collections, planning services and social housing.

The borough’s Council Tax charge will be added to Surrey County Council’s 4.99% increase that includes their Adult Social Care charge (£1,758.60 for Band D households), and Surrey Police and Crime Commissioner’s 4.19% increase (£323.57 for Band D households).

Cllr Ann-Marie Barker, Leader of Woking Borough Council, said: “Despite the council’s complex financial situation, I am pleased that we have overcome this important hurdle and set a robust budget for the forthcoming financial year.

“I welcome the significant and unprecedented support package offered by Government which gives us flexibility to deal with money that should have been put aside for borrowing and allows us to capitalise our debt over the long-term.

“The conditions set out by Government align with work already being undertaken on asset rationalisation, debt reduction and improved commercial governance as part of our Improvement and Recovery Plan. 

“I know residents will find any increase in Council Tax difficult which is why we are putting in place support for those who find it hard to meet the cost of rising bills. 

“These critical decisions are ones I did not want to make. However, they are necessary if we are to continue to provide essential services, set a balanced budget in future years and begin to return Woking to long-term financial sustainability.

“The future remains difficult and challenging. I am determined that Woking will recover to become a better council focused on delivering essential services to local people.”

Hardship Fund

To support those struggling to pay rising bills, elected members agreed to allocate £100,000 to the council’s Hardship Relief Scheme and Household Support Fund, as well as fund a package of support through Citizens’ Advice Woking. 

Changes to empty homes premium and business rate relief

During the meeting, councillors agreed to implement a 100% premium (i.e. double charge) on unoccupied and unfurnished properties which have been empty for one year or more, and 100% premium on unoccupied and furnished properties used as second homes. The new charges will be added from 1 April 2025. Exemptions would apply. 

Councillors also approved a revised Discretionary Business Rates Policy that confirms the type of relief available, criteria, the application process and period for review.
Households should expect to receive their Council Tax bills for 2024/25 shortly. 

Read the General Fund Budget and Council Tax setting report

Watch the Extraordinary Full Council meeting