FURIOUS Liberal Democrats have slammed their opposite numbers at the civic offices after Woking Borough Council failed to distribute more than £50,000 of funding to the community.
The Conservative-led local authority declined to spend the £94,459 gifted to them in Coalition Government grants over the last two years, and opted instead to return £53,924 at the expense of vulnerable residents and families.
Central Government gives local authorities a grant each year to distribute to at risk residents struggling to pay their housing or council tax bills.
If councils do not grant these ‘discretionary housing payments’ to residents, the outstanding balance must be returned.
Deputy leader of the Woking Lib Dems and shadow portfolio for housing, Will Forster, revealed his frustration in a scathing tirade.
He said: “I am appalled that Woking Borough Council failed to spend tens of thousands of pounds earmarked to help residents who are struggling to make ends meet – then handed the money back to the Government.
“The council had the funds to make many residents’ lives easier, but failed to do so.
“Woking’s Conservative administration are either incompetent or heartless.”
But the leader of the council, John Kingsbury, defended the council’s actions and explained that any money extended to residents had to be accounted for and should follow strict procedure.
He said: “The council had made discretionary payments in accordance with the eligibility criteria operated by the council – treating all applications fairly and in the same manner.”
Cllr Kingsbury also pointed towards the council tax support scheme introduced on April 1.
The scheme limited the financial impact on benefit claimants and vulnerable residents by identifying savings elsewhere.
Cllr Forster, who also sits on Surrey County Council, went on to reveal that the borough council will receive a £166,000 grant for this financial year.
Keen to avoid a similar fall-out in the future, he added: “The council must ensure that this new money is not handed back and is used to help struggling residents.”