Windsor and Maidenhead Council report a 'damning indictment'

Town Hall in Maidenhead Image copyright Google
Image caption The council's leader said the report showed a "cultural failure on a scale of epic proportions"

A catalogue of failures was found within a council that has warned that it could effectively need to declare itself bankrupt.

The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead Council's leader said the findings were a "damning indictment" of past "cultural and process failure".

A report prepared by auditors CIPFA found a previously "poor culture" and a lack of financial transparency.

The council said in April that it might need to declare a Section 114 notice.

That would bar any new spending except on vulnerable people and statutory services.

The council's leader Andrew Johnson told a cabinet meeting that the report highlighted "cultural failure on a scale of epic proportions" over recent years. He was elected leader in September 2019, having been elected as a councillor earlier that year.

'Regime of bullying replaced'

A desire to keep council tax down meant the borough had "by far the lowest charge in the country outside of London" for a number of years but reports "did not highlight the risks" of doing so, CIPFA found.

It said that showed a clear "poor officer culture and lack of physical capacity and capability, coupled with dominant members". That led "to no appropriate challenge or recognition that challenge is a good thing", the report said.

The authority suffered from "poor standards of financial capacity" and there was "little differentiation" between officers' and senior members' roles.

Simon Werner, who leads the Liberal Democrats group on the authority, said previous leaders warned "meeting after meeting about what was happening".

But Conservative councillor Leo Walters said a "regime of bullying" had been replaced with a "completely different atmosphere".

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