Council tax could go up and funding for leisure centres, community halls and the Lightbox gallery potentially stopped altogether, according to a new residents’ survey issued as part of Woking Borough Council’s downsizing.
It is the clearest indication yet of what the new “smaller” borough council may look like.
The council has published a consultation on the future of its discretionary services as it tries to cut costs and convince the government to bail out its £2.6billion forecast debt and £1.2bn deficit.
The consultation features five main questions with the first asking whether people understand the “severity of the council’s financial position.”
It then asks people to rate their top three most-valued services.
The list includes parks, play areas and green spaces, toilets, sports pitches and pavilions, leisure centres, swimming pools, volunteering, businesses support, safety, street cleaning, community spaces, arts and cultural, grants and subsidies, families and young people, older people and climate change.
The third question asks how frequently people use certain services and whether that is, weekly, monthly, annually or never.
Services here include Woking leisure centre, Woking Sportsbox, Eastwood leisure centre, Pool in the Park, sports pitches and pavilions, Moorcroft Centre, Parkview Centre, St Mary’s Centre, The Vyne Centre, The Lightbox Gallery and Museum, Rhoda McGaw Theatre and the Buzz Theatre.
The consultation then asks which services people would be prepared to pay more for with residents given the option of leisure centres, swimming pools, community centres, day-care centre services, community meals, the alarm service, theatres, car parking, garden waste, the Lightbox gallery and museum and garden waste collections.
The final question on services is on the services the council should consider reducing or stopping funding altogether.
The one difference is that car parking, which brings in about £8m in revenue a year, has been removed, suggesting the council will retain these sites.
The last question of substance in the survey asks residents how they think the council should tackle its budget shortfall.
Here residents are given the option of reducing services, stopping services, finding partner organisations to run them, charge users more or increasing council tax.
The consultation runs until August 6.
Services set for a reduction or cull have been provided for and funded at the discretion of Woking Borough Council – and not all councils provide these services.
It said these “difficult decisions” were necessarily to bridge an £11m budget shortfall in 2024/25 created on the back of a failed investment strategy when the council borrowed hundreds of millions of pounds between 2016 and 2019.
Councillor Ann-Marie Barker said: “As part of the council’s improvement and recovery plan, we need to become a smaller organisation focused on delivering core services to residents.
“It is, however, important that we hear the views of local residents and partners on the discretionary services that matter most before any decisions are made. People's views will be paramount in determining the future of the discretionary services we provide while ensuring best value for the local taxpayer.
“The more feedback we receive the better informed we will be, so I would strongly encourage people to share their views with us. Together, I hope we will get through this challenging time and become a smaller council that is fit for the future.”
Services run by Surrey County Council, including highways, fire and rescue and libraries, are not affected.
Waste and recycling collections, planning, housing, homelessness and environmental health are statutory services that are required by law and will continue.