Agenda item

General Fund Budget 2024-25 and Proposed Savings EXE24-001

Reporting Person – Eugene Walker


The Leader of the Council, Councillor Ann-Marie Barker, provided a short update regarding the Council’s budget savings.  In order to achieve a balanced budget, the Council faced the difficult decision to remove all grant funding for charities and voluntary bodies.  The Leader advised that the Council was working with Citizens Advice Woking and Woking Community Transport, two charities which provided an invaluable service in the Borough and had been the most significant recipients of funds in the past, to try and find a way ahead in which they could continue to deliver a reduced service for local people.  The Leader urged both groups to collaborate with the Council rather than campaign against the Council, stressing that there was no money in Council budgets for grants.  The Council would continue to provide office accommodation where it could and seek to find funds that could be used to deliver new business models that enabled a revised service from these charities.  The Council would be speaking to both Citizens Advice Woking and Woking Community Transport again next week and the Leader hoped a way ahead could be found.

Councillor Roberts, Portfolio Holder for Finance, introduced the report which recommended to Council service savings of £8.4m and provided updates on the processes for Equality Impact Assessments (EIAs) and public consultation which had been part of the decision-making process.  It was noted that the Overview and Scrutiny Committee had considered the report at its meeting on 29 January 2024.  The Portfolio Holder explained that an Extraordinary meeting of Council on 4 March 2024 would receive a report finalising the treatment of the Council’s debt in 2024-25 and the level of Council Tax.

The Executive discussed the regrettable but necessary proposed savings for 2024-25 which included a staff reduction programme of up to 20% across most Council services resulting in the loss of some 60 employees, the removal of community grant funding, the closure of public toilets, transferring sports pavilions and community centres to community ownership, reductions to street cleaning and grounds maintenance services, and increasing fees and charges for non-statutory services.  The savings had been subject to public and staff consultation, benchmarking with statistically similar councils, and had been reviewed by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee, Finance Working Group and at Member Briefings.  The Portfolio Holder thanked all Members for their input.  The Executive was informed that, despite these savings, the Council still faced a deficit on its business-as-usual services of £12.4m and required Government support to set a legally balanced budget.  Without Government support, the Council’s budget deficit next year could be up to £785m given the scale of its debt problem.  The Extraordinary Council on 4 March 2024 would receive a report on the Government’s support mechanisms; a Capitalisation Directive and Minimum Revenue Provision (MRP) exceptional support.

The Executive welcomed the work undertaken by the Portfolio Holder for Leisure, Officers and residents to find a viable option to keep the Pool in the Park open in 2024-25 by increasing fees and charges.  The Community Asset Transfer Policy discussed at the last Executive was highlighted as an alternative way to run facilities such as sports pavilions and community centres.  It was noted that the Council had recently facilitated local charities to meet The National Lottery to discuss options for funding.

The Executive thanked Officers for their hard work on the 2024-25 budget and agreed to recommend the proposals to Council on 8 February 2024, noting that a further report on the treatment of debt and level of Council Tax would be received at an Extraordinary Council meeting on 4 March 2024.


That  (i)    the £8.4m of savings set out in Appendix 3b to the report be agreed;

          (ii)   the Equality Impact Assessment and public consultation processes on the savings proposals that are summarised in Appendix 5 to the report, with detailed reports on each resident facing saving proposal, be noted as part of the decision-making process; and

          (iii)  it be noted a further report to Full Council on 4 March 2024 will receive a final report from the Director of Finance to finalise the treatment of the Council’s debt and Council Tax in 2024/25.

Reason:   The contents of the report is to ensure open and transparent governance in the financial affairs of the Council in balancing the 2024/25 Budget.

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