What are you doing to stop your conservative colleagues in government imposing a negative support grant on WBC especially since the chair of the Tory constituency is a WBC councillor?
What are you doing to stop your Conservative colleagues in Government imposing a negative support grant on WBC especially since the chair of the Tory constituency is a WBC Councillor?
The fundamentals of the current funding formula that distributes available resources across Local Authorities has been in place for many years and has been presided over by all three of the main national Political parties.
Our Executive Member for Finance at the time, Anthony Pollock and the Leader of the Council at the time, Keith Baker, supported by our Chief Finance Officer, were extremely successful in working with our local Conservative MPs to get a better deal for Wokingham, when the recent 4 year national finance settlement was announced in 2016. Negative Revenue Support Grant (RSG) is in essence a charge on this Council’s business rates and I think we all have to ask ourselves – why are we facing this? We have been efficient as a Council; we have got better value for our residents basically by cutting back on unnecessary costs. Other Councils though have refused to become more efficient and continue to waste residents’ money. Once again a Conservative Government is trying to clear up the mess left by others.
We see negative RSG as other councils punishing Wokingham for being good value for money. We have been working hard and trying to set out our case for keeping local taxes local so that money raised by you and every other tax payer is spent on you. The new Leader and Deputy Leader have been meeting with senior members of the Government including a recent meeting with the Communities Secretary on 13 November where this issue was raised. The Local Government Association is also working on behalf of us and other councils to lobby for more devolved financial powers to raise more money locally.
I hope all political parties will support this approach as well as the various other initiatives we are taking to continue to try and get the best value for money to keep taxes as low as possible and to provide top class services for residents.
The Deputy Leader of Council stated:
There is a strange formula which was established under Labour, I believe, and that formula has never actually been changed. Under that formula Wokingham Borough residents are the richest this side of Gallifrey. That needs to be looked at and various governments of all persuasions, including the coalition government, have threatened to do that but they still haven’t done it. The one thing that we have done apart from what Charles has mentioned is we asked our External Auditor to actually, instead of just simply saying that we were good at value for money, to explain back to the Council what that meant. So, for example, if we are particularly good at one area where we have say 10 staff to do the job which requires another area 20 staff or vice versa that those points are highlighted and those figures are given to the other authorities and to ourselves to say you could be better at this please speak to authority x, y or z. In that respect I would appreciate the assistance and help of all political parties to actually start that process going.
As Charles has said Charlotte and I had a meeting with the Secretary of State and one of the main items we talked about was the level of our Revenue Support Grant and just in case you are not aware we are the lowest funded authority in the country and just in case you only think that is in the Revenue Support Grant it is not. It is also on the amount that we will be keeping out of the rates that we collect from businesses. We are one of the bottom four in education, social care and also another interesting one the lowest on GP funding. All of these points we are tackling but I think Charles indicated very clearly because it is such an efficient authority we still retain weekly bin collections etc, we are building country parks all over the place. Because of that governments of all persuasions seem to think that we can carry on without that assistance but we are not prepared to do it anymore and with your help we can get it changed but we have to help other authorities.
What are you doing to make Mr Redwood get off his xenophobic obsession and actually help the local residents by getting us a decent support grant?
Supplementary Answer provided by the Deputy Leader of Council:
It was our esteemed MP, John Redwood, who arranged and got us that meeting with Sajid Javid where we not only talked about the bad level of funding we got but in addition to that the truly awful 5 year land supply issue that you are well aware.
The Leader of Council stated:
It was also John Redwood who helped us with the 4 year settlement as well so perhaps you should retract your statement.
The Deputy Executive Member for Finance stated:
On top of the lobbying work we have been doing we have also been taking steps independently to try to make the Authority more self-sufficient financially such as the Property Investment Strategy that was discussed at Council last week, the Business Rates Pilot which we are going to talk about later, and the income from the regeneration of the town centre. These are all things that we are working on on top of this to try and improve the situation.