If it isn’t – perhaps it should be. As its partner, Guildford Borough Council is in heavy-duty dog doo!
Guildford’s officers and bean counters have been burning the midnight oil to find ways to avoid bankruptcy. They said:
“If we do nothing, Section 114 comes into play which would pretty much make this council useless.”
No wonder Guildford’s previous chief didn’t apply for the role and took redundancy. No one else applied either!
The Chief Finance Officer is also former Waverley Finance Chief Peter Vickers, who is now up to his neck in the sticky brown stuff to sort out someone else’s mess. Oops! Jut heard Mr Vickers has resigned!
Services will be cut to the bone as G B C looks to carve out more than £18 million from its annual budget to avoid effective bankruptcy. The cuts were agreed at the full council meeting to address the authority’s £300m debt on Thursday, July 25.
Councillor Richard Lucas, the lead member for finance and property, said the borough would have to make “structural changes” and dispose of its assets if it wanted to get its house in order ahead of a revised November budget. He told the meeting:
“Our officers are trying to deal with the reality of the situation.We won’t deal with this by pretending there is no problem. This is going to result in difficult decisions for operational spending and capital disposal. This is not Section 114. We are taking action to avoid this. However, if we do nothing, Section 114 comes into play, which would pretty much make this council useless.”
Cllr Bob Hughes (Con, Shere) said it “was doubtless services would go” and that people “would get hurt”.
Is that the same Bob Hughes that has been living in a holiday park at Edgley in Albury 24/7 for years, breaking all the occupancy rules?
You can read the report here:
In a nutshell: The council can no longer afford to deliver its current range of services or maintain some services at existing levels, and significant rationalisation of the current service offer will be required to live within a reduced financial envelope.
” Services that protect the most vulnerable residents would be prioritised for protection, with the remaining services transformed “to ensure they are as efficient and cost-effective as possible”.
It will impose strict cuts to its budgets to cover an £18m deficit by the end of the financial year to avoid declaring itself bankrupt this autumn.
The deficit equates to 145 per cent of its net budget and
“will fundamentally change the services the council delivers and will require political will and a step change in activity to reconfigure services accordingly”.
Guildford residents have been told to “expect painful cuts to services”.
So what has brought one of England’s most affluent boroughs, in terms of personal wealth, to such a pass?
The Tory Government told local councils nationwide to compete with the big boys and speculate to accumulate. They were all encouraged to be “entrepreneurial”. The Government came up with the wizard wheeze that it could stop handing out grants by encouraging local authorities to create other income streams.
With cheap government loans available, some councils predictably decided to make property investments to create new revenue.
Of course, the problem is any investment has risk attached. Property prices, rental income and, most importantly, interest rates can go up and down.
As former Waverley Cllr Brian Edmonds told the Waverley Web:
A very sad tale of operating outside the zone of competence, the Government must better monitor the transparency and auditing prudence within local authorities. Perhaps there are insufficient councillors with the project and financial management experience required to scrutinise and audit local government management systems and processes with the necessary precision?