LEADER of Woking Borough Council, Ann-Marie Barker, has heralded the Liberal Democrat election victories at Friday’s count as an historic moment.

Giving a speech once all the results had been announced, Cllr Barker said it was “an honour and a delight” to be the first leader of a re-elected majority Liberal Democrat administration.

“In all 49 years of Woking Borough Council, and the many years of predecessor authorities, this has never happened before,” she said.

“Last year we won 70% of the seats up for election. This year we have won 80% of seats. For a second year, Woking voters elected no Conservative councillors. Local voters have backed the Liberal Democrats to continue our work to turn around Woking Council.”

Friday’s results saw the Lib Dems gain four seats, all at the expense of the Conservatives, and increase their majority on the council to 20 seats.

“Thank you, people of Woking Borough, for putting your faith in us to continue the work we have started to get the council finances under control, develop Woking town centre so it provides the homes we need without turning into a sea of skyscrapers and achieve carbon zero for our council and our borough.”

Cllr Barker thanked all those who had assisted with the elections and contributed to local democracy, from volunteers helping the candidates on the doorsteps to those carrying out the count at the leisure centre.

“I will take this opportunity to publicly thank the senior officers of the council for their work over the last year. It hasn’t been easy to deal with a new administration, government scrutiny and a very challenging financial position,” she said.

“I’ve also appreciated that Surrey County Council has provided help and support to my officers but I would make a plea… Please sort out the potholes.

“We can’t go through another year like this one where you risk your vehicle just taking a drive across Woking. As a popular meme goes ‘We used to drive on the left of the road. Now we drive on what’s left of the road’.”

Turning her attention to the opposition, she said: “I’ve been a little puzzled about material I have seen from local Conservatives. Their election byline suggested ‘There is a better way in Woking’.

“So where has this better way been over the 46 years Conservatives have either run or been part of running this council?

“I was even more puzzled at a claim that ‘Lib Dems won’t stop the boats’.

"Woking isn't awash with boating opportunities, but we do have the Basingstoke Canal, the Wey and Goldsworth Park lake where the hospice do have small boats racing for charity. I really don’t know what Woking Conservatives have against the Dragon Boat races on Goldsworth Lake," she joked. "I’m fully looking forward to watching the local teams racing for charity next weekend.”

She welcomed back all returning councillors, including Independent Amanda Boote who retained her seat in Byfleet and West Byfleet, and welcomed Labour’s new Canalside representative Anila Javaid.

Liberal Democrats gained four seats at the expense of the Tories in Woking (Picture supplied)

She said the Liberal Democrats had strengthened their local team.

“We have some great experience in housing, crime and safety and planning returning to the council and some fantastic new local representatives. Woking Council now has an Atlantic rower, a former head of Finance at UNICEF,  and two biomedical scientists.

“I know they will all work just as hard for local people in their roles as elected representatives as they have worked to be elected.

Cllr Barker added that the borough faced a challenging time ahead.

“We warned when setting budgets and the financial strategy several months ago that the council was in S114 territory. That means we were able to set a budget for the current financial year, but not beyond. That threat has not receded.

“We face a £9.5 million gap between what we need to provide services and income. On top of this is the crippling challenge of paying back the borrowing. We need £60m for that alone in the year ahead.

“In this most challenging of times for Woking Council I do want to work with other parties. I hope they will be open to speaking about cross party working to navigate the way ahead.”