Woking Borough Council’s bankruptcy crisis is so shocking the authority even agreed to be responsible for “buying the Hilton Hotel’s cutlery”.

It is the first of many revelations to come as the authority agreed to an “asset disposal strategy” as part of its efforts to cut into its £2.6billion projected debt on Tuesday (June 20), writes Chris Caulfield of the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

Many eyes were immediately drawn to the council’s flagship town centre development in Victoria Square – a central driver behind the council’s £1.2bn deficit.

But the recent news that it had been written down in value to almost half what it cost to build means it is unlikely to be sold at a massive loss straight away.

It’s the assets inside the building that made many drop their spoons.

Addressing the extraordinary council meeting, borough leader Cllr Ann-Marie Barker said: “Let’s have a look at a couple of projects. Victoria Square going from £150 million to £460m to £700m. Huge difference in the scale of what went on there. Huge changes to the project as it went through.

“Much that wasn’t known by opposition councillors as that project developed.

“I found out at a very late stage that Woking Council was responsible for buying all the cutlery for the Hilton Hotel. 

“It just seems quite astonishing that was the approach and how much responsibility and risk the council has taken on. That’s where the huge issues lie.”

The opening of the Hilton Hotel, part of the Victoria Square development, is already about three years overdue. It was originally set for completion in November but the pandemic and other delays pushed this back 16 months. Later, remedial work to address cladding issues added another 20 months to the opening date.

Meanwhile the knives and forks have sat unused in drawers.

Cllr Barker added: “To get things under control, you have to understand the totality of the problem.”