Starting a new year with a set of resolutions is not unusual. 

In the case of Woking, the new year’s resolution should be for local politicians not to repeat past mistakes, namely why Woking council ended up heavily in debt because of the actions of the former Conservative administration and the failure of Lib Dems to oppose core decisions despite many opportunities.

What worries residents most following the go-ahead given to the council by the Minister for Local Government, Simon Hoare, to increase council tax by ten per cent is that residents are made to pick up the bill for the debt. 

Residents feel very strongly that the predicament the council finds itself in was not of the residents’ making but that they are getting punished for it.

Residents also think the increase will only go towards keeping some services ticking over, and the debt, however hard that politicians try to spin it, won’t ever be paid off and will increase every year with interest. So, instead of punishing residents, it would be better to write off the debt to minimise hardship.

Hence, the residents feel it cannot be allowed to happen unchallenged without making a peaceful protest to get the central government involved, as it was equally culpable for not overseeing such enormous borrowing by a small council like Woking.

What is equally worrying is the effects the double-the-rate-of-inflation council-tax increase will have on the vulnerable despite claims by the council leaders that, in practice, the rise reflects only 50p a week for a Band D property as Woking borough receives only a tiny proportion, 12 per cent, of local council tax. The 50p per week may not sound like a lot, but it all adds up when residents are already struggling with the cost-of-living crisis. 

The council ended up with £1.2billion debt over the years by living beyond its means and not listening to those raising concerns. So why should we encourage residents to live beyond their means and punish them for other people’s mistakes?

Despite promises of “transparency and openness” by the current administration, residents are also concerned that the pledges mean nothing and are no different than from those from the previous one who took people’s trust for granted. 

It has become a norm for politicians to advocate bold sentiments yet leave a disenchanted public to clear up the mess and pay for their mistakes.

So apart from Woking council living within its means, the new year’s resolution should be to restore trust because trust takes years to build, seconds to shatter, and forever to rebuild to create a mutual bond of loyalty.