Cuts to Government funding justify council ‘diligence’

THE Conservatives on the council say a funding announcement by the Government, which will see the borough receive £200,000 less than expected, has validated their approach to finances.

On December 18 the Department of Communities & Local Government published its Finance Settlement, which allocates how much Westminster will distribute to all local authorities.

The settlement showed that while Woking is to receive an increase in its New Homes Bonus allocation, its overall grant will
be reduced. However, local Tories have said that the widely expected approach from Central Government, which is cutting spending to reduce the national budget deficit, has validated their approach of investing in revenue generating assets.

Conservative Council Leader John Kingsbury said: “Clearly, reductions in financial support for local councils are disappointing and we would all like more, but the reality is that more cannot be afforded and to pretend otherwise will just mislead residents.

“We expected these reductions and have planned for them. We have been investing to ensure we can withstand the reductions without adversely affecting our services for local people.”

The angry councillor went on to slam the ‘hypocrisy’ of the Liberal Democrats for claiming that Woking had been targeted for disproportionate cuts (12.5 per cent instead of the average 6.7 per cent by 2019/20), saying: “Despite the negative scaremongering by local Liberal Democrat Leader [Will Forster], there is no threat to Woking’s Community Centres, housing or youth services.

“These have been protected by the Conservative administration over the last five years and it intends to do so in the future.”

Councillor Kingsbury told the News & Mail: “The Liberal Democrats were supporting reductions in grants to local authorities when they were part of the Coalition Government.

“Spending reductions are not just targeted in Woking. They are affecting all public bodies as the Government works hard to balance the national books.

“This hypocrisy is typical of the approach adopted by the Leader of the Liberal Democrats, who in recent months has appeared to prefer engaging in personal attacks and negative scaremongering rather than protecting the interests of Woking residents.”

Meanwhile, Cllr Forster fired some shots of his own, accusing his Tory counterparts further up the political pecking order of ill-timing with their announcement.

He said: “While most people are busy during the Christmas holiday period, Parliament snuck out the Financial Settlement, which outlines council budgets from now until 2020. This is very much the time to bury bad news.

“I don’t think we can trust the Conservatives on Woking Borough Council or our local Tory MP [Jonathan Lord] to fight for our
area.

“They have stood by while their friends in Westminster pass on devastating cuts to our borough.”

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