Slough Urban Renewal (SUR) has said it remains committed to finding ways to bring forward its schemes in the town after the council issued a S114 notice, effectively declaring the authority bankrupt.
Slough Borough Council (SBC) announced on Friday it had issued the notice and is asking the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) for help.
SUR, a joint venture between SBC and Morgan Sindall, which has delivered many major projects in the town over the past eight years and is working on the huge mixed-use North West Quadrant scheme, is one of the key drivers of projects in the town.
A spokesperson for Morgan Sindall subsidiary, Muse Developments, said: “We have been made aware that Slough Borough Council has been served a S114 notice and we are talking with our partners to understand what impact this may have on the Slough Urban Renewal joint venture.
“Since 2013, the partnership between Morgan Sindall and the council has delivered much-needed affordable housing and a number of community amenities, such as schools, leisure and sporting facilities in the heart of Slough.
“Clearly this is an unfortunate situation. However, the partnership has been in place many years and has control over a number of sites within the borough, including North West Quadrant – the former Thames Valley University site.
“Slough is a town rich in heritage with a huge amount of potential, and we are committed to finding solutions to bring forward the pipeline of transformational projects that will drive job creation and economic development, through the delivery of high-quality places.”
Local authorities cannot go bankrupt because the Government will ensure services are maintained. But a damning report by the council’s new chief financial officer, Steven Mair, published on Friday, laid out the full scale of the problems.
As of March 2021, SBC’s deficit was estimated to be £96 million. But if no action is taken Mr Mair estimates it could rise to £159m by 2025.
The report states the council has quadrupled borrowing from £180m to £760m since 2016/17. SBC must not enter into any new agreements for expenditure without his written consent until a full council meeting on July 22.
The report states that advice around the legality of the council’s situation is being sought. It also reveals the council’s financial management team is entirely made up of temporary or interim staff, after a number of people left the department.
In a statement the council said it would be looking at its land and other assets, including those outside the borough, and plans changes to internal structures and staffing levels.
It will also review senior grades and consider how services can be delivered more efficiently.
Chief executive Josie Wragg said: “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.”
Cllr 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.”
Image shows the former TVU site from the Future Works phase one building.
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