This week Cllr John Kaiser – Deputy Leader of Wokingham Borough Council and Executive Members for Finance has a column in Wokingham Today. It is really worth a read as it dispels a lot of the scaremongering that you might have seen on social media recently.
John Kaiser writes
“During the pandemic one of the first and most pressing issues I faced was to ensure that some of the most vulnerable in our community, the Homeless, were looked after and taken off of the streets. It was a great relief to me that we were able to quickly identify those sleeping rough across our Borough and find suitable accommodation for all who wanted it within two weeks of lock down.
“The impacts of COVID on our business community have been devastating. As we moved through the lock down period it was paramount, given our limited funds, that the government provided us with much needed business grants and ratesreliefs to pass on. For the sake of livelihoods, it was essential we did this quickly, and while at times it felt frustratinglyslow, in less than a month we tracked down those we needed to. It gave me great satisfaction to start helping the legion of small and medium sized businesses across the Borough. By July we had managed to distribute just under £50m in grants and reliefs to our businesses. I know that for many COVID is an ongoing struggle and I am acutely aware that additional support may be necessary.
“Throughout our pandemic response, we have been ensuring those in most need receive any support they require. Doing so has come with substantial costs at a time when key incomes to the Council have dried up, most notably from Leisure and Car Parking. We have also been diverted away from delivering on savings initiatives. I have found this extremely challenging.Ensuring the needs of our community are met while trying to manage the Council’s resources has been a great responsibly. Fortunately, we came into this pandemic with a strong financial standing created through decades of our robust and sound business-like approach to managing the council finances. Contrary to some vastly inaccurate and politically motivated statements about the council’s finances, we have always borrowed sensibly and continue to do so. During COVID these investments have generated income critical to our response. Contrary to speculation we also have assets far in excess of the value of our borrowings.
“I hate listening to the lies and rumours about the council’s finances. During this time when many among us fear illness, job losses, reduced income and may struggle with mental wellbeing, scaremongering statements are hugelyirresponsible and lack any sense of feeling or respect for those who rely on the many essential services delivered by Wokingham Borough Council. Rest assured I will run ourfinances to ensure that, when we get back to normal life, whatever that will look like, Wokingham Borough Council will still be in a position to deliver our vital services, having never failed to support the residents of the borough throughout this very difficult and challenging time. Don’t believe anyone who tries to tell you otherwise.
“As I have said on many occasions a council that is broke is no use to anyone.
“Please stay safe and follow the health guidelines.”
Member for Barkham
Executive member for Finance and Housing
Wokingham Borough council.