Woking’s financial crisis reached the highest political chamber in the land this week after the borough’s bankruptcy was raised during Prime Minister’s Questions.
Jonathan Lord, Conservative MP for Woking, told Rishi Sunak on Wednesday, June 27 that he had been working “closely” with the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. since it sent in a commissioning team to oversee the borough’s turnaround.
The town’s MP said Woking’s vulnerable residents “must be protected”.
The commissioners were sent in shortly before the council issued its section 114 notice declaring it had gone bankrupt with debts set to reach £2.6billion and a deficit of £1.2bn.
Section 114 notices stop all new spending with the exception of protecting vulnerable people, statutory services, and pre-existing commitments.
The commissioners are scheduled to remain at the council for at least five years and will help it manage its programme of spending cuts, staff reductions, service charge increases, and disposal of assets.
Mr Lord asked the Prime Minister: “As my right honourable friend knows, I am liaising closely with the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and the Treasury with regard to the terrible news of Woking Council’s recent Section 114 Notice.
“Would my right honourable friend agree with me that in this scenario, the vulnerable must be protected and that the local councillors of all parties need to work together to try to put Woking Council’s finances back on the right track.”
Answering, Mr Sunak said: “I know my honourable friend is a great champion for his Woking residents, and as he knows, the Secretary of State for Levelling Up has intervened in this authority and appointed commissioners to ensure that decisions are taken that provide the best out outcomes for residents, including the most vulnerable, and indeed, the public purse.
“I agree with him that local councillors should be working together with the commissioners to put the council’s finances in order.
“The commissioners will submit their first report to the Secretary of State setting out progress on the council’s path of improvement and financial sustainability.
“And I look forward with him to seeing further progress.”
Woking Borough Council has said it will consult with residents on the services they value most before undergoing a “full restructure” to become smaller and cheaper authority.
Woking bosses have already been in discussions with representatives from the public sector union Unison although no formal consultations with staff have begun.