Tories to blame too – Slough’s financial crisis grows
What a difference 12 months makes, writes Jo Hanney, Lib Dem candidate for Upton (see left). This year's elections to Slough Council are on 5th May,
But, we now know, following increasingly shocking revelations, the awful state of Slough Council's finances.
In the words of the Council's new Finance Director in March 2022, the deficit of Slough's Labour-run Council "is of a magnitude which has not been seen before across the UK". Furthermore, "the Council has no complete and fully accurate accounts since 2015/16".
Depressingly, however, little seems to have changed in the approach taken by so many Labour and Tory councillors who, respectively, too often continue to fail to listen properly to others, or work cooperatively and responsibly for the good of the town.
The Finance Director's report stated that from 2022/23 to 2028/29 'very significant savings in the order of £20m will be required per annum in addition to further capitalisation. The £20m per annum savings will require cost cutting to a degree not seen anywhere else'.
If necessary, this will be enforced by the Commissioners sent in by the Tory Government, at a cost to Slough Council Tax payers of over £1,000 per day for each of the 2, sometimes 3, Commissioners who work several days a week.
The letter from the Leader of the Labour Council, James Swindlehurst, accompanying the 2022 Council Tax demand made no mention of seven more years of significant cuts. Nor did it describe just how many hundreds of millions of pounds of Council assets will have to be sold to fund current expenditure.
His failure to acknowledge just how far his Labour councillors have mismanaged Slough, is part of a long-standing pattern. Another report into Slough Council's problems said in Sept 2021, "The roots of the failure go back to 2011" and the unwillingness to listen to advice on improving the Children's Services.
So, who can get Slough out of this mess? A council rightly has to secure government approval to sell assets to fund current expenditure. This process, known as capitalisation, requires strict conditions to be applied, such as raising the Council Tax to the maximum permitted level and making major savings
Sadly, Slough Tories have shown that they seem determined to remain part of the problem on Slough council, not part of the solution. They irresponsibly played politics rather than properly scrutinising what was going wrong with Slough's finances.
Slough Tories repeated calls for lower Council Tax would clearly make the situation even worse. Would it even be allowed by the Commissioners sent in by the Tory Government? The irresponsible Tories are no answer to Slough's problems.
What is desperately needed is a new approach on Slough Council, and I am delighted that Slough Lib Dems' manifesto sets out our commitment to consult, count and cooperate effectively. It is available in full here: Slough Lib Dems' website