Leader’s statement to the Executive


Friday, 16 June, 2023

The statement below was presented to the meeting of the Executive on Thursday 15 June 2023 by Cllr Ann-Marie Barker, Leader of Woking Borough Council.

"Tonight’s Executive does not cover the financial situation of the council. The next step in tackling that is a meeting of Full Council next Tuesday 20 June 2023. However, given all that has happened in the last three weeks I thought it would be helpful to make a short statement covering where we are, what happens next and what to expect in the coming months.

Where we are
"There have been two key financial events affecting Woking Council in the last few weeks.

"A government review team published their report on 25 May and the Local Government Minister announced an intervention in Woking and the appointment of commissioners.

"The government review team report highlighted the council’s huge level of borrowing, the lack of capacity in the council to manage its finances, investments, land and property. The council has borrowed £1.9bn and this was projected to increase to £2.4bn.

"On 7 June, the Chief Finance Officer issued a Section 114 Notice, saying that the Council is now unable to set a balanced budget for 2024/25.

What happens next
"Officers and councillors are working with the government commissioners. There are three individuals, with experience in local government and business, who are providing support to the council in our journey back to a sustainable financial position.

"On Tuesday 20 June the whole council will meet. This is a statutory meeting which is required after the declaration of a Section 114 Notice.

"The Chief Finance Officer will present his Section 114 Notice, with a full explanation of his reasons for declaring Section 114. The Chief Executive will then present her response to the Section 114 Notice.

"All councillors will then have an opportunity to contribute to a debate on the matters in front of us.

What to expect
"It is very much business as usual for every day council services. Your bins will still be collected, council rents will be collected and repairs will be done, planning applications will be decided.

"To bridge the £9m budget gap we need to become a council that lives within its means. That will mean changes in the future. We will need to make difficult decisions about how we deliver services to local people. We may need to offer a reduced service, to charge more for services or to work with partners and the voluntary sector to deliver some services.

"I recognise this is a very worrying time for council staff, local people, suppliers, businesses and charities. I can’t promise an easy journey ahead but I can say that the council will treat everybody fairly, ask for input and inform everyone as we travel this challenging road.

"Please do watch the council meeting on Tuesday 20 June. It starts at 7pm in the council offices and you can attend in person or watch online."

Watch the Extraordinary Meeting of Full Council on Tuesday 20 June 2023 at 7pm