Wokingham Today

MP shares fears over council’s grant cuts


THE REDUCTION in central Government funding facing the council has been branded a “tax on efficiency” by one of the borough’s four MPs.

Last week, Bracknell MP Dr Phillip Lee discussed changes to the financial settlement – the grant that the Government sends to Wokingham Borough Council – with council leader Cllr Charlotte Haitham Taylor and members of her Executive.

Dr Lee, whose constituen­cy includes borough areas Finchampst­ead and Wokingham Without MP, said that the discussion­s covered a wide range of topics, including the future of Pinewood Leisure Centre, but the main focus was on the local government funding arrangemen­ts.

Under the current proposals, these would result in WBC having to pay over to central government an amount for business rates that is higher than they actually collect from businesses in the borough.

Dr Lee was told that this affects a number of councils across the country, but that Wokingham was hit hardest, which the Conservati­verun leadership say is due to the efficiency with which it provides its services.

In a statement, Dr Lee said: “This is a tax on efficiency.

“We should be encouragin­g other councils across the country to meet the same standards as Wokingham, not penalising our borough for the achievemen­ts they have made.

“I will be speaking to colleagues who are similarly affected to see whether adjustment­s can be made that will prevent this situation arising.”

And Cllr Haitham Taylor, sought to reassure residents over the future of Pinewood, saying that the discussion­s relating to ways in which the clubs could be supported – last month, The Wokingham Paper reported on the boxing club’s fears that it couldn’t get a long enough lease making it wonder if the land was to be sold for housing.

She said: “As part of our discussion­s, I updated Dr Lee about the ongoing conversati­ons we have been having with local ward councillor­s and Wokingham Without Parish Council. These conversati­ons are regarding clubs seeking grants to expand on the site.”

And with the government grant, Cllr Haitham Taylor said that she said the discussion­s over the grant cut had been helpful.

She said: “We had a useful, in-depth discussion about the Borough Council’s funding, including our main Government grant. This grant will reduce to zero in 2018/19, and will potentiall­y become negative in 2019/20, meaning the Council would be charged £7.1million by the Government to be redistribu­ted to other, less efficient councils.

“We expressed to Dr Lee that we think this is unfair on our council tax payers, who have supported us in making this council provide value for money. This is at the same time as facing enormous pressures of an aging population that exceeds the south east average and a demand in children’s services that has doubled in the last year alone.

“Dr Lee has pledged to investigat­e with others a potential for a change to the system for funding local councils that reflects how well we perform without wasting our residents’ money.”

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