Welcome to my first regular column in the Woking News & Mail. Every fortnight, I will report back on what the Liberal Democrats are up to running Woking Borough Council and the latest on my campaign to become Woking’s next MP.

Last year, the Lib Dems were honoured that voters put their trust in us to turn around Woking council. The former Conservative administration have effectively bankrupted our town and saddled future generations with debts they will struggle to repay.

The now Lib Dem-run council is starting to make difficult decisions to balance the books and recently consulted local people on their spending priorities: a clear sign we will be a listening council, unlike the previous one.

That month-long consultation received over 8,000 responses and is one of the most successful engagement exercises conducted by Woking council. Respondents were broadly representative of the borough’s demographic when compared with the recent census.

I am hugely grateful to the thousands of residents who took the time to tell the council their views. Local people have given the council a strong steer on what services they want to see prioritised, and the survey results will be invaluable in informing the future of discretionary services.

As covered in this newspaper, the council is having to consider things that we do not want to do – such as the future of the Pool in the Park – because there is no money left.

But we are leaving no stone unturned in the search for efficiencies and to protect frontline services.

There’s no better example of this than that the council is planning on leaving the Civic Offices in Gloucester Square to save money.

It’s clear that our council’s financial problems are so serious that they are not solvable in Woking. That’s one of the key reasons why I am running to be Woking’s MP.

The simple truth is that Woking council cannot afford the legacy of debt we have inherited. The interest on Woking’s debts alone is six times the amount raised in council tax: Woking needs Government support to deal with the excessive debt.

I will be the strong voice for my home town in parliament, demanding that the Government support Woking.

But this isn’t just about Government support, the country needs to learn lessons from what has happened locally to ensure it cannot happen again. The Government needs to have robust checks and balances on local authorities to stop councils borrowing £2 billion in the first place.

Ever since Woking council issued a Section 114 notice, councillors and residents alike have been understanding what is classed as a statutory or a non-statutory service: namely what Government and parliament say is an essential or non-essential service.

It’s appalling that many services people rely on are deemed non-statutory. As Woking’s MP, I will push for services such as community meals on wheels, swimming pools and public toilets to be classed as statutory services and properly funded.

Woking council would not be even considering changing these services if they were statutory and adequately funded in the first place.

My Lib Dem colleagues and I, along with the council’s dedicated staff, are working hard to ensure the council recovers from its financial situation.

The journey is going to be long and difficult, and things will sadly get worse before it gets better, but things will get better – especially if there is real change in Westminster.

By Will Forster

Lib Dem deputy leader,

Woking Borough Council