Council budget offers little to those living outside Wokingham , claims Lib Dem leaderBy Jon Nurse
February 21, 2013
Huge investment is promised in this year’s budget but there is little for people living outside the town centre, claims the leader of the opposition.
Around £62 million will be invested in regenerating Wokingham over the next three years, but Councillor Prue Bray is disappointed other parts of the borough will not receive the same level of funding.
She said: “It’s very sad the council seem to think Wokingham borough is the same as Wokingham town.”
However, a new community hub in Woodley, costing around £1 million, is included in Wokingham Borough Council’s capital vision in the proposed budget.
The Liberal Democrats leader was also surprised to see a leap in the forecast for council borrowing in this year’s budget.
The 2012/13 budget anticipated borrowing around £6 million over the following three years. However, this has increased to £15.2 million in the next financial year, £44 million the year after and a further £19 million in 2015/16.
Cllr Anthony Pollock, executive member for finance, said the majority of borrowing would be for the town centre redevelopment and building new schools.
He added: “I wanted all the borrowings in the capital programme this time. It was something aspirational a year ago and we are now more committed than we were then.”
Opposition councillors are frustrated they only received copies of the proposed budget just a week before the final decision will be made at the council’s executive tomorrow.
Cllr Bray said: “There is no effective challenge of anything in the budget other than what we can mount in the last week when it’s far too late to make any changes.
“Wokingham is the only place as far as I know where it happens like this.
“Committees in Bracknell scrutinise the forthcoming budget through the year. That’s more like what most councils do. Most announce the broad structure around December time.”
She added: “It’s absolutely hopeless in terms of making out what’s going on. It doesn’t spell out what the changes to services are.
“There’s something happening to concessionary travel, but we don’t know what it is.
“And £40 million is listed in the 10-year capital plan for Wokingham housing future sites. How can we possibly have sensible discussion about the £40 million when we know nothing about it?”