8 Apr 2024
Stephen Conway headshot

I have been flabbergasted by some of the false claims made in recent months about the council’s finances.

I have been honest and open about the financial challenges that the council has faced over these last two years. Inflation – now falling, but baked into the system – high interest rates, and increasing demand for our statutory services, especially supporting disabled children, the frail elderly, and those with mental health problems, have put enormous pressure on the council’s finances.

All councils face similar challenges. But in Wokingham’s case, the situation has been made worse by our receiving less core revenue support from central government than any council in England that has responsibility for adult and children’s social care.

When I was in opposition, the then Conservative administration at Wokingham repeatedly argued that the council received less core funding from central government than any other comparable council.

Indeed, I remember the then Liberal Democrat opposition offering to support the Conservatives in lobbying for a better deal for Wokingham.

Sadly, the current Conservative opposition has adopted a very different approach. Local Conservatives now claim that Wokingham has more money than other councils.

This represents not only a remarkable denial of reality, but also a remarkable change of perspective.

I’m delighted to say that many residents – over a thousand – supported our campaign for fairer funding, writing to the secretary of state to put the case for a better deal for Wokingham.

The government finally listened and gave us a bit more money for this year. It’s nowhere near enough to transform our financial situation, nor does it address the fundamental problem of a flawed funding formula.

But at least the government has belatedly acknowledged what the Conservative opposition on the council repeatedly denies – that Wokingham receives inadequate core funding support.

I still hope that the opposition will work with us to put the case to government for a change in the funding formula that recognizes the true costs of supplying proper adult and children’s social care.

The choice is theirs. They can either continue to deny that the borough needs more government support, or they can take the side of the borough and join us in defending the interests of our residents.

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