Lib Dem run Woking secures Government support 

8 Jan 2024
Woking Council

Lib Dem run Woking secures Government support 

  • Government set out steps for Woking’s long-term financial future. 

  • Need for unprecedented support acknowledged. 

  • Work must continue to optimise assets, reduce borrowing, and secure savings. 

  • Government anticipates council tax increase of up to 10%. 

Woking Borough Council has, this week, received a letter from the Minister for Local Government, Simon Hoare MP setting out the government approach on the financial support required for setting a budget for 2024/25. 

The minister acknowledges the collaborative approach Council leadership has taken whilst remaining concerned by the extraordinary levels of Government support required. Though other Councils, including Nottingham, Thurrock, Croydon, and Slough, have declared effective bankruptcy, Woking remains the largest local authority deficit ever after the outgoing Conservative administration left a £1.2B deficit. 

The letter recognises that Woking will require unprecedented support if it is to become financially stable and specifically outlines the need for assistance relating Minimum Revenue Provision (MRP). It also explains that the Department are expecting an in-principal capitalisation request in early January along with the Council’s proposal on council tax. In preparation for this, Government has proposed a core council tax referendum principle of no more than 10% for Woking within the provisional local government finance settlement. The Government’s view is that such an increase would be appropriate and proportionate. 

Cllr Dale Roberts, Portfolio Holder for Finance, adds “We are pleased about the breadth of support being outlined by government despite the seriousness nature of the Council’s liabilities. It demonstrates both a thorough understanding and a willingness to return Woking to a long-term sustainable financial position”.  

Cllr Ann-Marie Barker, Leader of Woking Borough Council, comments that “This shows the rapid progress that can be made by a new leadership team. Whilst other troubled Councils have struggled over many years, my administration has been able to engage constructively without any of the defensiveness or denial that can be usual for distressed Councils”.   

Cllr Barker adds some reservations. “Naturally, we are concerned by the Government expectation of a council tax rise of up to 10%, we understand what this means during a cost-of-living crisis. In practice, though, this is likely to mean a 50p a week increase for a Band D property as Woking receives only a small proportion (12%) of local Council Tax. 

Notes to the Editor. 

Minimum Revenue Provision: 

Councils have a legal obligation to set aside for loan repayments under regulations called minimum revenue provision (MRP). The Lib Dems supported a residents legal challenge in opposition and made the proper assessment of MRP a priority as a new administration. The Section-114, in June this year, revealed that the previous administration had made inadequate provision for years and was understated by over £300 million to 2023/24.