From the Chamber - council finances

13 Jun 2024
Imogen Shepherd DuBey

The world of Council Finances is like a big cake of money – you have to slice it up in different ways, in order to meet the needs of our residents and decide how much cake, goes to whom and where. It seems that every year, with increasing inflation and costs, there is just less cake to go around and we cannot just bake a bigger cake.

So, in putting together a Council budget, we need to set out our priorities. I have no doubt in my mind that we must focus on our financial spend on those who need our help the most. We must continue to support our children in care, our children with special needs, adults with disabilities and those who are unable to care for themselves. I do not want to live in a word where needy people are abandoned, but it does mean that there is less to go on the other things that we do.

We have to reorganise how the council works and make changes that will save money in the longer term and not all of them will be liked by everyone. The progress that we have made in the last couple of years since the Libdems took over includes ensuring that over 95% of our commercial properties now have a tenant in them, keeping retail use in our Town Centres high. We have also reduced many of the services that are running at a loss, often by engaging with private industry for help, such as with Cantley Cafe. Very recently we purchased a care home, that is run by the council’s own care provider Optalis and it will allow us to look after more of our own residents without having to use expensive private care homes.

However, with the rise in inflation and care costs, we are still having to make difficult decisions to reduce our outgoings for now and for the longer term and there is currently no end in sight. The funding we receive from central government has been getting less, every year in real terms and our Council tax is capped at a rate below current inflation levels. Therefore the costs for our chargeable services, such as library fines, car parking and non-statutory waste collection must rise in line with inflation as we really have no latitude to subsidise them otherwise. To do so, would mean taking money from those in the most need and I cannot imagine many people would want us to do that.

All around us, I can see neighbouring councils struggling to bridge the funding gap. Reserves are being drained and at least two have had to ask for extra government help. However, I am confident that with careful management and making those difficult decisions on behalf of our residents - Wokingham Borough Council will continue to meet our needs, providing many of the things that our residents do want us to do.

This website uses cookies

Like most websites, this site uses cookies. Some are required to make it work, while others are used for statistical or marketing purposes. If you choose not to allow cookies some features may not be available, such as content from other websites. Please read our Cookie Policy for more information.

Essential cookies enable basic functions and are necessary for the website to function properly.
Statistics cookies collect information anonymously. This information helps us to understand how our visitors use our website.
Marketing cookies are used by third parties or publishers to display personalized advertisements. They do this by tracking visitors across websites.