‘Critical’ services will cost residents more after bankrupt Woking Borough Council agrees fees hike

Vulnerable people will be hit in the pocket after fees for “critical” services were hiked up by bankrupt Woking Borough Council.
Woking Borough Council. Picture: Google MapsWoking Borough Council. Picture: Google Maps
Woking Borough Council. Picture: Google Maps

Fees for meals on wheels and day care have been increased in an effort to save them after councillors voted through the inflation-busting rises on Thursday, November 30. The council must ensure all services considered non-vital by the government are self-sufficient, after it entered effective bankruptcy this year with a deficit of more than £1 billion and an overall debt expected to climb to £2.6bn.

If non-statutory services do not cover their own costs, the council is under extreme pressure to stop them. In total the announced increases are expected to bring in an extra £1.4m a year, below the £12m in annual savings it has to find before the April 24 budget.

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That gap adds pressure to high-profile council services such as Pool in the Park, and car parking where the fees and futures are still under consultation.

Leader of the council, Councillor Ann Marie-Barker, said: “I’m afraid I do have to take us back to why we are in the position of needing to propose these fee and charges increase today.

“The level of these increases has nothing to do with inflation, nothing to do with this administration, it is all to do with the financial situation of this council. We had government intervention in May. We declared section 114, the effective bankruptcy, in June.

“As a council we are paying £175,000 pounds every day to repay borrowing. That’s over £60 million pounds a year. That is the financial situation we are in. We need to find savings of £12m pounds in order to set a balanced budget for next year.

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“We need to increase the income from some of the services we provide. If we don’t, then we are not able to provide those services.”

A daily £20 day care fee will be introduced, council papers show, but that will not include any transport costs via the community bus service – itself under threat.

Meals at extra-care homes will go up by 20 per cent in January. This will reduce the deficit and “start moving towards the Community Meals Service covering its costs and enable the service to be retained”, council papers read.

People who continue to use the council’s garden waste services will face a jump from £45 to £70 per bin per year.

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Councillor Saj Hussain, ( Con, Knaphill) said: “If we are raising charges per bin to our residents and if they stop taking those bins in, which some people will because its becomes over costly. People will stop having their garden bins collected, we will probably end up with more and more fly tipping which will come back to the councils costs.”

Woking Borough Council is continuing to consult on its leisure and car parking services. The announced price rises does not affect them.

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