A consultation giving residents and stakeholders the chance to have their say on proposals to make essential changes to reduce council services has ended (Sunday 12 November 2023).
The six-week service review consultation, which received 5,801 individual responses, sought the public’s views on proposals to become a smaller, more efficient council focused on delivering essential services to residents and how it can balance its budget.
Proposals included the reduction or removal of discretionary services, unless they can become ‘self-funding’ and internal measures such as reducing the size and cost of the Civic Offices, as well as management costs.
The consultation specifically sought views on three proposals: the closure of public toilets; handing over the management and maintenance of pavilions (excluding pitches) to alternative organisations; and the phased closure of Pool in the Park.
Cllr Ann-Marie Barker, Leader of Woking Borough Council, said: “I know many residents had strong views on these proposals with almost 6,000 individual responses received. I would like to thank everyone who gave their feedback.”
Alongside an online survey, residents were able to complete paper surveys, with particular attention given to older and vulnerable residents who were provided with additional support when giving their feedback at community centres.
During the consultation period, council officers, members of the Executive and councillors continued to investigate different solutions that could keep services running.
Cllr Ellen Nicholson, Woking Borough Council’s Portfolio Holder for Living Well, said: “The consultation goes beyond public feedback with many conversations going on as we explore alternative options that could enable us to keep facilities, such as Pool in the Park, open. We are also exploring ways forward for community transport and advice services.
“It is a complex, detailed and fast-moving process. We need to consider changes in the next six months that would typically take years to work through,”
Cllr Barker added: “Throughout this difficult process my administration has sought a cross-party approach involving those from every group, including the Independents, in exploring potential solutions. It is what residents quite rightly expect of us.
“Likewise, we have been open in sharing information whilst we effectively rebuild the many council processes that the government assurance report observed were not fit for purpose.”
Cllr Nicholson continued: “We are still very much working through the detail. It has been immensely rewarding to sit down with community groups, campaign groups, individual residents, and our partners in Surry County Council and other boroughs who have been hugely supportive, generous with their time and creativity during the many discussions so far.
“However, we must deliver significant budget savings. We will continue to explore all cost-neutral alternatives available to us that would enable some facilities to remain operational.”
All consultation responses will now be evaluated and considered as part of the budget decisions at the meeting of Full Council on Thursday 8 February 2024.