Dear Editor

WITH less than four weeks to go until the local elections, it is not surprising that the level of political squabbling is increasing, but please can we residents/voters have a grown-up discussion about the real issues facing Woking?

Please can we have clarity about whether Woking has a “financial problem” and if so what is it and what does it mean for us?

From what I have understood the answer is yes. The cause is the vast amount Woking has borrowed and hence the borough is unable to service its debts alongside continuing to provide a full range of quality services to residents.

Reserves have been used to balance this year’s budget but next year is uncertain. Services have been reduced and may be cut back further to the minimum level defined as Statutory Services, as we have seen in places like Croydon and Thurrock.

I think this view is supported by the decision of the Central Government department (DLUC), which lent the money, to carry out a review of Woking’s financial situation. Just like a commercial bank which is concerned that a borrower is unable to make the interest and capital repayments on a loan they have asked to “audit the books”.

Unfortunately, it looks unlikely that we will see the results of their work until after this year’s elections, even though I believe they first stated their concerns before last year’s elections took place.

So instead of starting a petition and stirring up strong emotions about the parking charges at the Leisure Centre please can our MP and former councillors, like Simon Ashall (in last week’s letter to the News & Mail), please clarify if they acknowledge that Woking has a big problem to solve and what they would do to solve it.

There will be plenty of time to argue about who is responsible for the past decisions which led to us getting here once the results of the DLUC review is published. What residents (voters) want and need to know now is what options are realistically available and whom can we most trust to implement viable solutions.

I would also like to know what our MP is doing to persuade his Central Government colleagues to look at ways to mitigate the impact of Woking’s debts on the council’s ability to offer the facilities and services we would reasonably expect from a local authority in an area like ours. Lenders should carry some responsibility for the effect of their lending decisions.

It will be the most vulnerable members of our communities who will suffer most if Woking is reduced indefinitely to delivering only a minimum set of Statutory Services in order to service the debts they did not create and which do not benefit them.

Gillian Wilder, Pyrford

* WHAT are your thoughts regarding Woking's mountain of debt? Has it been worth it? Have your say below, or send a letter to the News & Mail, via [email protected].

For more readers' letters and local comment, see the 13 April edition of the newspaper, in shops now.