CITIZENS Advice Woking has had an 81% increase in queries from local residents in financial crisis over the past 12 months, with a significant number of first-time inquiries coming from some of the wealthiest parts of the borough.

The figures were revealed by the charity’s chief executive, Lorraine Buchanan, at a cost of living crisis meeting attended by a large number of local groups and organised by Woking Borough Council.

Ms Buchanan said Citizens Advice had also had a 93% increase in referrals to Woking Foodbank and other charities, a 40% increase in people asking for help over their energy costs and a 28% increase in residents reporting council tax arrears.

The meeting heard from the Woking Foodbank project co-ordinator, Alison Buckland, that the charity had received more than 1,000 referrals during the summer months.

There were representatives of more than 20 local charities and other groups, as well as the Department of Work and Pensions, the NHS, Surrey County Council and Surrey Police.

The decision to set up the meeting, which was held at Eastwood Leisure Centre in Sheerwater, was agreed at a council meeting in July after a motion by Ann-Marie Barker, the council leader, who gave an address.

The other speakers were Julie Fisher, the council chief executive, and Louise Strongitharm, the strategic director for communities.

Delegates discussed the breadth of local support on offer to residents and identified areas in need of further development, followed by developing an action plan to help residents navigate their way through the financial crisis.

The action plan was presented to the council executive committee last week.

Cllr Barker told the meeting: “The rising cost of living is already having an impact on our residents, with evidence suggesting that many are experiencing financial difficulties for the first time.

“Whether it’s trying to pay the rent, putting food on the table, heating your home or putting fuel in your car, individuals and families are feeling the squeeze.

“In Woking, we are very lucky to have such amazing charities and not-for-profit groups which are already doing a lot to help residents.

“By bringing these organisations together in one place, we all have a better understanding of the scope of the local crisis, what support is currently available and develop a practical action plan that will strengthen our collective efforts and build resident resilience in the face of the challenges to come.”

FOR more information about the support available to residents, visit