Details on the cuts that will shape the future of life in Woking have been published for the first time.
Among the 38 departments, services, and facilities to go or be drastically scaled back are the closure of Pool in the Park, the ending of council funding for the Lightbox Theatre, and the removal of public toilets.
In June, Woking Borough Council declared itself effectively bankrupt with debts set to hit £2.6 billion and a deficit of £1.2bn and a £12 million gap in its annual budget.
Immediately this meant a freeze on all new spending with residents waiting to learn how the bust local authority would make the saving cuts to balance its books.
These cuts are outside the huge debt mountain built on the back of a failed investment scheme which left the council with £68m a year in interest repayments.
The council has already said it will be impossible recover its total deficit without Government help.
To get that support Woking Borough Council has been told it must cut all unnecessary spending and raise as much income as possible.
This week the council has revealed or the first time, how it plans to do that as it published the results of the Gateway Review, and resident engagement survey, ahead of its executive meeting on Thursday September 14.
Below is a summary of Woking Borough Council’s plans.
The council has said it will run public consultations into the proposed closures and funding cuts on October 2.
Parks and green spaces
The most highly valued discretionary service according to the residents’s poll.
The council has said it will now take a “more detailed review” but options include closing play areas, lower levels of maintenance, and spreading play sites across the borough.
Arts, Cultural & Sports Development
The council subsidises the Lightbox and provides funding for events such as Summer Sounds. It also supports community groups such as Woking Community Choir and Dance for Parkinson’s classes, as well as the management of BUZZ theatre.
Its cultural development function helps initiatives such as annual celebrations for Diwali and Chinese New Year as well as other one-off events.
Woking Borough Council also provides funding for Dance Woking, and its sports development helps young people take part in the Surrey Youth Games.
The council is proposing to stop support for all of these.
Pool in the Park
In the last financial year the council spent £1.8m subsidising leisure provision.
Pool in the Park specifically costs £700k. As such the council will look into the “phased closure of this building over the next three years”, with initial focus on the closure of the leisure pool to deliver early savings.
The council fund 13 sports pitches and pavilions. The proposal is to remove funding for these.
All 12 public toilets provided by the council are proposed to close.
Previous beneficiaries of the grants included Citizens Advice Woking, Woking Community Transport, Your Sanctuary, and Maybury and Sheerwater Community Trust. The council is proposing to cease the scheme.
Woking Translation Service and Voluntary Sector Support
A paid-for service provided to schools, healthcare providers, and other support services co-ordinated by the council. These would be ceased, There would also be a reduction in support the council offers the voluntary sector.
Café at the Vyne
The café offers hot lunchtime meals during the week, primarily to older or vulnerable residents. The council would sever its links and a new provider sought to run it without subsidy.
Community centres day care
Move day care facilities for frail or vulnerable residents at St Mary’s and The Vyne to Hale End Court and Brockhill. This would end the council’s subsidy and move the service towards a self-funding model.
The following services will be transferred to partners and do not requiring consultation:
- Social prescribing – transferred to another council partner and service to residents retained.
- Hospital discharge – transferred to another council partner – service to residents retained.
- Family centres – Surrey County Council to select new provider from April 2024.
Proposed savings, cuts and its impact
- Removal of grants to external bodies – £686,000 (all figures annual): The council allocated funds each year to community groups via a grant award programme. It is proposing to remove the programme.
- Community centres – £353,000: Shift to a self-funding model, with more spaces leased out, other community providers sought to run the centres (including cafes). Day-care services will be transferred to extra care settings.
- Translation Service and Voluntary Sector Support – £105,000: Staff reductions and an end to translation services for third party organisations.
- Family Services – £73,000: Surrey County County to select a new provider of Family Centres from April 2024.
- Sport and Arts Development – £312,000: Remove council support, coordination, and funding for arts and culture, including grants to The Lightbox and Dance Woking.
- Community Safety – £80,000: Staff reductions, with resources focussed on the provision of the statutory community safety action plan.
- Health and Wellbeing – £99,000: Staff reductions, higher fees and charges, consolidation of meal service.
- Housing Options – £43,000: A statutory service where a vacant post will not be filled.
- Strategic Housing – £53,000: Staff reductions, with resources focused on the statutory elements of service.
- Neighbourhood Services – £58,000: Removal of vacant post.
- Planning / Planning Policy – £228,000: Six full time jobs to go following restructure.
- Building Control – £66,000: Staff resource.
- Green Infrastructure – £171,000: Review of staffing structure because of the reduction in discretionary services. This includes climate change work, play areas and green spaces. Could result in three job losses, bringing the team from seven to four.
- Environmental Health/Housing Standards – £93,000: Reduction of four posts
- Licensing – £37,000: Unspecified.
- Business Liaison – £313,000: Discretionary service which the council is no longer in a position to support.
- Member Services – £153,000: Supports democratic and civic event services as well as administrative support to the council’s corporate leadership. The proposal is to reduce staffing by three full time equivalent posts.
- Marketing Communications – £107,000: The proposal is to reduce the current staffing by two full time posts and produce less content.
- Human Resources – £172,000: Reduce the current team by three full time roles and offer less support.
- Transformation & Digital – £141,000: Whole service redesign to reflect the development of the council’s IT and digital strategy.
- Revenue and Benefits – £291,000: Redesign of how the council deals with customer enquiries and push users online.
- Debt Management Expenses – £250,000: Suspend failed investment programme.
- Leisure Services Savings: Pool in the Park, Woking Leisure Centre, Sportsbox, Eastwood Leisure Centre and Sports Pavilions – £900,000: Removal of council subsidy, phased closure of Pool in the Park and a move towards a self-funding.
- Forensic Review of Council Budgets (Gateway Outcomes)- 750,000
- Organisational Restructure – £250,000: Streamline management as part of move to a ‘smaller organisation’ that focuses on core services.
- CCTV Contract Review – £72,000: Move to a semi-comprehensive contract.
- CCTV Infrastructure Review – £40,000: Review of the number and location of cameras.
- FM Efficiencies – £100,000: Reprovision contract.
- Removal of public conveniences – £203,000: The removal of 12 public conveniences across the borough.
- Property Services Savings: Removal of Vacant Posts – £174,000: Services changes and restructure.
- Civic Offices Savings – £250,000: Operational changes to deliver savings in the running of the civic office.
- Grounds Maintenance Contract – £1,250,000: Due for renewal in 2025/26. The scope of the contract will be reviewed.
- Neighbourhood Services – £1,000,000: Discussions underway.
- Micro-Slice Budgets – £35,000: All budgets set aside to establish a small general reserve, funded by taking 0.001 per cent of every budget in the council.
- Procurement and Contract Savings – £200,000 rising to £400,000: Review of off-contract spend, cost controls and supplier contracts.
- Lease surrender receipts – £900,000: Revenue receipts from a former lessee following early surrender of lease.
- Increase in Commercial Rents – £700,000 in 2026/27 rising to £800,000: Current and expected market operations.
- Shared Services Efficiencies – £30,000