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Do Slough Tories want bigger savings or even higher Council Tax?

April 14, 2022 10:47 AM

Matthew Taylor with results from a Cippenham litter pick led by Lib Dem Focus teamAppalling mismanagement and reckless borrowing by Slough's Labour councillors for many years is the main cause of the perhaps worst financial crisis any UK Council has ever created.

However, according to Matthew Taylor, Chair of Slough Lib Dems (left), the confrontational and irresponsible attitude of both Labour and Tory councillors contributed to causing the crisis, with the Tory budget proposals in March 2021 being so unbelievably irresponsible that, if adopted, they would have made the crisis even worse.

In the past 12 months, a whole series of reports have exposed the Slough Labour councillors' disastrous mismanagement of the Council's finances. In March 2022 the Council's new Finance Officer highlighted some of the worst aspects of the failures:

  • Slough's budget deficit: "is of a magnitude which has not been seen before across the UK and is accompanied by a range of issues that are likewise extremely wide ranging, unique in their appearance and size at one Council"
  • Incredibly "the Council has no complete and fully accurate accounts since 2015/16"!
  • The cumulative failings over many years mean "The current estimates for 2022/23 show that the budget requirement is 78 per cent greater than sources of funding".

Slough Council's new Director of Finance, and the Commissioners sent in by the Tory Government to oversee the Council at the expense of Slough Council Tax payers, make clear that because of the mess created by Slough's ruling Labour group, severe cuts will be required for 7 more years.

According to the Finance Director's report, from "2022/23 to 2028/29 very significant savings in the order of Β£20m will be required per annum in addition to further capitalisation. The Β£20m per annum savings will require cost cutting to a degree not seen anywhere else"

The Finance Director is clear that to cover current expenditure, major asset sales will be needed as well as savings. The Government only allows this process, known as capitalisation, when councils have met certain conditions such as raising their Council Tax to the maximum amount permitted.

Such is the damage Slough Labour Party have inflicted on Slough there is no alternative to the programme of Β£20m savings a year, plus a capitalisation programme that is likely to mean maximum Council Tax rises continue.

Shockingly Slough Tories are behaving as irresponsibly as in March 2021. They are claiming in leaflets: 'There is an alternative'; then failing to give any relevant details of what this might be.

If the Tories believe there is an alternative, it would have to consist of larger savings and/or holding a referendum to increase Council Tax by more than the maximum allowed by the Government. The Tories should come clean about whether they want bigger savings or higher Council Tax.

Catharine Parkes-Haymill and Lynch HillThe Government could do more to help. Catharine Parkes, Lib Dem candidate in Haymill and Lynch Hill, points out that the Lib Dems' commitment to a much larger COVID recovery fund for schools than that proposed by the Tory Government will be very much welcomed in Slough, where all local services are facing years of cuts because of the failures of the Labour-run Council.

Every vote for a Lib Dem is a vote to tell the Tories they must provide much more extra funding to help schools catch up after COVID, and help the NHS catch up in services such as cancer.