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Slough Council bankruptcy: a new way forward is needed after Labour mismanagement and Tory irresponsibility

July 12, 2021 8:27 PM

Matthew Taylor with results from a Cippenham litter pick led by Lib Dem Focus team"Many years of mismanagement by Labour Councillors, combined with Tory irresponsibility, have plunged Slough Council into effective bankruptcy. The town needs a new way forward out of this financial fiasco" said Matthew Taylor, Chair of Slough Lib Dems (see left helping to lead a Cippenham litter-pick).

He continued: "On Friday 2nd July Slough's Labour-run Council revealed it had imposed emergency controls on its spending because of the shocking news that it was facing a £96 million financial deficit. Without action, the deficit could rise to £159 million by 2024. This comes as no real surprise given the extremely damning audit reports published on 10th May 2021 of the much delayed accounts for 2018/19. The reports by auditors Grant Thornton referred to significant weaknesses and material misstatements in the preparation of the Council's financial statements which have occurred over a number of years."

Matthew Taylor also said there were many questions to be asked about the timing of the auditor's reports: "What makes all this even more shocking is that the timing of the publication of key evidence also helped Labour escape being immediately held responsible by the voters. The election in May of so many councillors loyal to the current failing Labour leadership has made finding solutions more difficult."

Matthew pointed out that his colleague, Sukh Dhillon, who stood for the Lib Dems in the Upton Ward in May, and is himself an accountant, "has reported that local electors had told him that had the auditors' reports been published before the election, rather than just 2 working days after the May 6th election, they would have joined the increasing number who voted Lib Dem in Upton Ward. The new expertise and thinking that colleagues such as Sukh Dhillon could bring to the Council are just the type of qualities needed to secure the sustainability of Slough Council's services."

Elaborating on to how to get Slough out of the mess created by the current councillors and Government, Matthew Taylor said: "If Slough is to recover from this appalling crisis, it's important to realise how Slough Borough Council got into this mess in the first place, and for those councillors and others responsible to be held to account. There are many factors involved, most going back to pre-Covid times. Three stand out:

  • First, Slough Council's Labour leadership lacked the skills required to ensure the council's finances were being properly run and the mounting debts controlled.
  • Second, the mismanagement by the Labour councillors was made worse by their arrogant refusal to listen to any other groups in the town or accept advice. For example, one of the major items causing the deficit is the expenditure involved in Slough Council taking back control of the Children's Services. But control of the Children's Services was only taken away originally by central government because Slough's Labour Councillors were running them so poorly, and refused to listen when others proposed ways of improving the services
  • Third, nationally and locally the Tory's irresponsible attitude towards councils caused major problems. Across the country the Tory Government under-funds key local services such as education, social care and policing. Locally, the depth of Slough's crisis was only made fully clear in May 2021, but it was already obvious the Council was running into financial problems. So why in the budget meeting and election leaflets did Tories irresponsibly called for the Council to reduce its income? This ineffective opposition helped let Labour off the hook and get through May's elections. It meant Labour could, with some justification, say in their leaflets that the Tories were: 'either being dishonest, or need help with their basic maths'"

Finally, Matthew Taylor laid down this challenge: "The way forward out of this fiasco will involve all councillors behaving responsibly, and those involved in creating the crisis accepting responsibility for past mistakes. In order to achieve a recovery over a prolonged period, it will be necessary for things to change in Slough, with new councillors elected who will work together for the good of Slough and its residents.

"In the next elections the Lib Dems will put forward candidates who will have the capacity and willingness to help restore the town to financial stability, whilst maintaining services to the maximum extent possible, and ensuring adequate staffing levels. It will be a false economy not to maintain adequate staffing levels or to cut back on services that appear to be most at risk, including climate emergency measures and maintaining parks and green spaces."