Prime Minister suggests Woking Borough Council only had itself to blame for the mess it was in

The Prime Minister suggested Woking Borough Council only had itself to blame for the mess it was in after saying councils were “responsible for the management of their own finances”.
Jonathan Lord asks Rishi Sunak a question during PMQs. Picture: submittedJonathan Lord asks Rishi Sunak a question during PMQs. Picture: submitted
Jonathan Lord asks Rishi Sunak a question during PMQs. Picture: submitted

PM Rishi Sunak was at the University of Surrey in Guildford last week where he was grilled on a number of issues including Thames Water’s performance after the thousands of people were left without water.

Reporters also took the opportunity to ask about the plight of councils as the list of local authorities going bankrupt, topped by Woking ’s £2.6billion debt, continues to grow.

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It comes as many were hoping the autumn statement, where the government sets out its financial aims, would include major measures to help regional-government finance. .

Mr Sunak said: “The first thing is the local council here, the total resources available are up by about 6.5 per cent, from memory. So the idea that some have been cut is not quite right. There is more money going into local government.

“Weeks after I became Prime Minister, we announced a huge amount of extra funding, particularly for social care, which is a big pressure for local councils up and down the country wanting to put extra funding into that, because we know that is important to people.

“But ultimately it’s about local councils, (they) are responsible for management of their own finances and making sure they look after tax payers’ money, and that’s the same here as it is anywhere else.”

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Joining the prime minister at the event was the Conservative MP for Guildford, Angela Richardson.

Reporters asked the panel about whether enough had been done in the autumn statement to support council funding.

A decade of reduction in the levels of funding from central government has driven many local authorities to seek their own means of revenue, which in the case of Woking Borough Council led it to borrow billions of pounds for regeneration projects that ultimately failed.

Mrs Richardson told the conference that public finances were “about really good management of people’s resources so that they can get the services that they deserve.”

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Woking Borough Council, whose communications is now overseen by Department for Levelling Up, Housing, and Communities appointed commissioners, was approached for comment but said it had nothing further to add.