The opposition leader in Slough BC, who today became the first council in 2021 to issue a Section 114 opinion after its finances hit buffers, alleged that “the scale of the problems financial revealed portends gross negligence “. by the board, which he accused of “financial mismanagement”.
Wayne Strutton (Con) also told LGC that Slough is now seeking a Â£ 174million support package from the government, although it is not clear if that figure includes the Â£ 15.2million capitalization direction sterling which has already been offered to him for this exercise. It would be far more important than any of the exceptional counseling support programs offered to date.
Slough Opposition Leader Wayne Strutton (Con) told LGC this afternoon he had not received official confirmation that the council had issued a Section 114 notice until a meeting with board chief executive Josie Wragg and her new Section 151 agent Steven Mair this morning, despite the news breaking into the press yesterday.
LGC saw a letter from Cllr Strutton yesterday sent to board chief James Swindlehurst (Lab), who recently also took on the firm’s portfolio for financial governance.
In it, Cllr Strutton accused the council of “financial mismanagement which raises the distinct possibility of a Section 114 notice” and an “alarming lack of transparency, not only with elected members but with residents. and the companies of Slough â.
Cllr Strutton said there was a “misalignment in the numbers” for the amounts for which the board had said it was seeking a direction of funding, commenting: “At this year’s budget meeting we were told that Slough Borough Council’s request for a capitalization direction was a ‘one off.’ Why are we now asking [additional] extraordinary financial support from the government not only for 2021-2022 but also 2022-23? “
He claimed that a recent report by Grant Thornton which raised concerns about Slough’s financial viability and reserve level showed that there were “serious questions about the council’s financial practices” and whether it had “considered a situation” in which Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick “does not approve of the direction of funding, due to concerns about Slough’s ability to implement the recommendations of the external assurance review” .
“I raised to the budget council [meeting] my serious concerns about the financial viability of the board under your leadership, âhe wrote.
Cllr Strutton told LGC that “the scale of the financial problems that have come to light portends serious neglect”, blaming not only political leaders and “Slough’s Labor Group over-ambition” but also “high-level” staff.
âWe were heavily involved in the development of downtown Slough, but we didn’t have the reach, capacity, expertise and capacity to deal with it. “
Cllr Strutton also warned that the council’s policies of “endlessly raising local taxes, generating income from a tight asset base, and undeliverable savings plans are not mutually compatible with l ‘balance of accounts’.
He claimed that if information on the extent of the financial problems in Slough had been available before the local elections in May it would have “affected the results”, adding that “we lost one seat by 45 votes”.
Slough has been contacted for comment.