Published on

31 July 2023

Government underfunding and rampant inflation punishing residents

Compared to other areas residents in Wokingham Borough get more than £400 less per household each year towards their services from the Government

Stacks of one pound coins growing up and up, showing inflation

Rampant inflation and the Government’s decision to make Wokingham Borough the lowest-funded council in the country continues to punish our residents.

Spiralling inflation beyond the council’s control is seeing rising costs, while Wokingham Borough Council’s increases in Council Tax are capped.

Residents in the area get the least funding from central Government per person of any unitary authority in the country.

Compared to other areas, residents in Wokingham Borough get more than £400 less per household each year towards their services than if it was funded in the same way as the average unitary authority. This is £30million per year in total.

A graph showing reduced Government funding for the council and inflation rising rapidly

Reducing expenditure quickly

To balance the budget, the council is looking at how to reduce expenditure as quickly as possible.

As part of finding these savings at last week’s executive meeting, councillors agreed to proceed with a consultation on grass cutting, public bin collections and street cleaning.

The changes would save taxpayers about £600,000 over three years.

These are being made to ensure we protect those who need the most help, including those with disabilities, adults who can’t look after themselves and children with additional needs.

The consultation will begin in August and a report will come forward in October to look at results and potential implementation of these changes.

The council is doing everything it can to ensure its finances are sound in an increasingly challenging situation recognised across the country.

Common case across the country

In recent weeks Southampton City Council, Guildford Borough Council, Hastings Borough Council, Birmingham City Council and Kent County Council have all been quoted as facing significant challenges which if not addressed may mean the financial position of the council is unsustainable.

Cllr Imogen Shepherd-Dubey, executive member for finance, said: “These are difficult decisions being made out of necessity – not by choice.

“The council cannot continue to operate as it has done in previous years and this is why we are having to make the decisions about grass cutting, public bin collections and school transport.

“Years and years of the Government choosing to underfund our area has left us with us having to make cost reductions.

'Government forcing us to make the difficult decisions for them'

“They are forcing us into the scenario where we are making the most difficult decisions for them, making changes to local services so we can keep looking after those who need our help the most.

“Costs rising up and up means we are squeezed more tightly than ever before. Residents in Wokingham Borough get less per person than any other area which provides all services. This has been the case for years.

“We are making these changes because funding services we can’t afford leads to a much more grave scenario for residents.

“If the council effectively went bankrupt, government commissioners would impose enormous service cuts and double digital increases to Council Tax. We are committed to that not happening here.”

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