06:00PM, Thursday 13 May 2021
Tory councillor Wayne Strutton (left) and council leader James Swindlehurst
Council leader James Swindlehurst is facing calls to resign following the release of two heavily critical reports into the handling of the council’s finances.
Auditor Grant Thornton LLP published its report into the local authority’s 2018/19 accounts on Monday, which revealed a host of concerns over the council’s financial governance.
Recommendations to the council include taking urgent action to replenish its cash reserves and addressing the ‘insufficient skills and capacity’ of staff within the finance department.
The opposition Conservative group described the report’s findings as ‘deeply alarming’ and said it raised serious questions about the fragility of the council’s finances and financial mismanagement by the Labour administration.
Councillor Wayne Strutton, leader of the opposition, said: “The leader of the council must take full responsibility for the alarming lack of scrutiny and the financial mismanagement overseen by him.
“It’s time he was held to account for the reckless wastage of taxpayers’ money and resign.”
Mherunisa Hussain, chairman of the Slough Conservative Association, said the report from the council’s external auditors was ‘deeply worrying’ and revealed the council’s finances to be ‘much worse than anticipated’.
She added: “The leader of the council’s part in these failures is indefensible. How much longer will he continue to wrongfully blame the financial mismanagement on lack of funding when clearly it is a lack of oversight and inadequate management and governance which is to blame.”
Council leader James Swindlehurst said he had no plans to resign and will now be taking full responsibility for the financial governance of the council as part of his cabinet reshuffle.
He said: “It seems that with every local issue in the town – from bus lanes and e-scooters to the council’s budget – the Conservatives issue a press release calling for the leader to resign. These claims would have more credibility if they were not made every other week and certainly not a week after the Labour administration won 11 out of 14 seats contested at the local election.
“Much of this information and the draft report were put to the audit committee back in March. The biggest issue identified was a lack of strength and resilience within the council’s financial officer team and the council has taken decisive steps to strengthen this team corporately.
“Previously the responsibilities for finance, governance and the budget were split across a number of cabinet portfolios, with my cabinet reshuffle I have taken full responsibility for the financial governance of the council going forward and will ensure that council officers correctly implement the full suite of recommendations contained in the report.”
Billy Presbury, 21, of Moray Drive, and Kai Warwick, 19, of Whiteford Road, targeted a trio of teenage boys in Farnham Park on June 1, 2019.