Slough Borough Council has issued a Section 114 notice and will be pausing non-essential spending in response to a report by the Director of Finance into the state of the council's finances.
The council said it had dedicated substantial resources, including management time, to mitigating the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, including a compassionate approach to council tax and business rate collection.
In a press release announcing the move issued today (July 2nd), the financial implications of the pandemic were cited alongside issues with the council's finances that "go back several years," which were recently uncovered.
Slough has formally notified the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) of the Section 114 Notice and will be seeking financial support from the Ministry.
A review of the council's land and other assets – including those outside the borough – is planned to take place. Changes to internal structures and staffing levels will also be a part of the authorities strategy to fix its finances.
Additionally, according to the council, senior grades are being looked at alongside finding ways how services can be more efficient.
As part of the process, the Director of Finance, Steven Mair – who is responsible for the council's finances – today wrote to all councillors advising them of the Section 114 notice and the formal steps now required.
The formal steps outlined in the procedure are:
• a letter from the Section 151 officer (the Director of Finance) to all councillors advising them of the Section 114 notice
• a response from the Chief Executive
• a council meeting to be held within three weeks (July 22) to discuss the notice, response and actions being taken to meet the financial challenges.
Josie Wragg, chief executive, said: "Residents should be reassured this notice does not mean any immediate change to services; we will still be collecting your bins next week, safeguarding the most vulnerable in our town, maintaining the roads and supporting schools, to list just some of the services we know are important to you.
"Slough's financial problems result from a range of challenging financial issues that have grown in scale over a number of years, and as a new team we are committed to changing the way the council operates to match our resources.
"The section 114 notice is one step in what has been, and will continue to be, an on-going programme of improvement to our financial footing, which began with our new financial and executive management team."
Josie Wragg added: "There is no quick fix. This will be a long process. We were on the wrong path financially, but we are committed to making the changes needed and as officers, working with the political leadership and government to reduce disruption as much as is possible."
Councillor James Swindlehurst, leader of the council, said: "The process of repairing council finances continues and our commitment to the provision of essential services remains unchanged: bins will still be collected, potholes still filled, care still provided to our most vulnerable.
"We have had a team forensically scouring our financial statements and processes. To back up the commitment to better financial management, at the May council meeting, I took on the portfolio as part of cabinet and involved all the lead members in discussions to secure our financial future.
"Some of the issues being found go back several years, but this cabinet, appointed in May, will make the decisions required and put the council on a sustainable footing.
"The journey we have been undertaking with the transformation and restructure has helped us identify priorities for our communities and concentrate on what is required for Slough residents, businesses and the town as a whole.
"We will continue to engage all residents and other stakeholders in the ongoing improvements to our council finances."