FORMER Woking Borough Council officers and councillors will be interviewed as part of auditor Grant Thornton’s value for money review of the council’s arrangements.

In a letter to the council’s chief executive Julie Fisher, which defines the review’s terms of reference, Grant Thornton says: “Given changes to individuals in senior leadership roles at the council, we will need to try to interview former officers and former elected members relevant to the focus of our work. 

“We would hope such requests lead to engagement in our work. If this were not the case, we would need to consider using our auditor’s powers to compel stakeholder engagement, but this is something we will always seek to avoid.”

The auditors will examine the leadership and culture at Woking Borough Council, when the critical decisions were made that led to its financial collapse.

Grant Thornton says it will also look into whether the financial control environment led “to increased risks of fraud” and if the council set an unbalanced budget for any of the financial periods since its calamitous investment strategy was introduced.

Ms Fisher said: “It is important that we understand the decisions and actions of the past that have significantly contributed to the financial challenges we face today.

“Grant Thornton has agreed to conduct a value-for-money review into governance arrangements that relate to our historic investment strategy, which relates to their responsibilities for the 2023-24 audit year. The review will consider the council’s governance arrangements and processes for making effective decisions in relation to investments made in the past. 

“It will review how risks were assessed and managed and how decisions were scrutinised at the time those decisions were made. 

“The outcomes from the review will be shared to enable the council to learn lessons from the decisions and actions that have contributed to the challenges we now face.”

Grant Thornton expects to begin reporting its findings next month, with reviews of the council’s financial planning assumptions and decisions, including debt repayment, also being conducted.