Slough Borough Council faces assets sell-off after bankruptcy

Slough Borough Council town hallImage source, Google
Image caption,
Two reports in 2021 revealed a catalogue of failings included rising debts at Slough Borough Council

A council faces having to sell off most of its buildings to cut its debt, government commissioners have warned.

Slough Borough Council was forced to declare bankruptcy last year, having accrued £760m in borrowing debt.

A report by the commissioners said it would have to sell most of its assets "without exception".

Council leader James Swindlehurst said he was "determined" for the authority to be left with some buildings to serve residents.

Two reports last year revealed a catalogue of failings, including rising debts at the Labour-run Berkshire local authority, the government appointed commissioners to oversee the council.

As part of their review, they warned of tough decisions, increases in fees and charges, and service cuts needed to bring the council back to an even keel.

'Stark picture'

It said the council needed to sell up to £600m of its £1.2bn of assets to reduce its debt.

This places a risk on the town's libraries, children's centres, community hubs and housing stock transfer to be sold off, according to the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

The commissioners also warned major decisions were a risk as the council does not have the sufficient officers with the necessary skills and competence.

They wrote: "This is a very stark picture, and it is a direct consequence of the decisions taken and errors made in the past. They cannot be undone. All the council can do now is put things right."

Speaking at a full meeting of the council, Conservative opposition leader Dexter Smith accused the Labour group of making past decisions "behind closed doors".

He said: "The people of Slough will, over this year, learn much more on what the consequences of the bankruptcy of this council is."

However, Labour's Pavitar K Mann said: "We are very upfront about the fact that it [council finances] is very bleak.

"We face a very tough and a very painful uphill battle and the decisions that are going to have to be made to get us back onto recovery."

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