Independent commissioners appointed to Slough after ‘serious’ financial failings

Slough Borough Council aims to home rough sleepers staying in Datchet hotel

The Government has appointed independent commissioners to help rectify ‘serious failings’ over the handling of Slough Borough Council’s finances.

The move follows the release of two damning independent reports today into the council’s overall financial position and its financial governance.

The reports were carried out following Slough’s decision to issue a Section 114 notice in July, banning all non-essential spending and effectively declaring itself bankrupt.

A report, drawn up for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities by former chief executive Jim Taylor, said Slough currently has a borrowing total of £760 million, the third highest per head for unitary authorities in England.

His report also highlighted serious failings in three key areas at the council including its administration of financial affairs, democratic services and scrutiny and service reform.

A separate report, carried out by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance, said there is ‘considerable uncertainty’ over the council’s ability to deliver the savings it needs to balance its books.

Future viability of the council is dependent on the sale of up to £400 million of council assets which could take some time, the CIPFA report added.

The newly-appointed Government commissioners will be tasked with providing advice and challenging the council on how to close its short and long-term budget gaps, helping to agree on an asset disposal plan and overseeing the collection of revenues such as council tax and business rates.

They will be in place for at least three years while the council aims to rectify its dire financial position.

Council leader James Swindlehurst said: “There are still many difficult decisions ahead of us. We are financially in a very challenging place, and we will be asking government for a level of capitalisation direction which has never before been made by a local authority.

“I accept the government intervention; understand why they feel it is necessary and I look forward to welcoming the commissioners to Slough and working with them until the issues in the report have been fully resolved by us all.

“Together we can continue to make major strides at pace in righting the wrongs of our past and putting the council on a sustainable financial footing, improving our governance and making the right decisions for our residents and town.”

More to follow.

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