THE Government is giving “too much money” to councils in the most deprived areas of the country.

That’s according to Graham Ebers, chief finance officer of Wokingham Borough Council, who claims the government’s current funding formula “ignores the basic costs” of running a council.

The Conservative-run council, which is trying to reduce a £3.5 million budget deficit, is the lowest funded unitary authority in the country.

But in 2019, Wokingham was also ranked as the least deprived unitary authority area in England.

The government began cutting the council’s funding in 2011 and it now no longer receives a revenue support grant.

READ MORE: STD testing firm paid to provide Covid-19 tests in Wokingham

At a council meeting on October 13, Mr Ebers said the council is now “massively reliant” on council taxpayers, who are expected to cough up around £72 million this year.

In December, the government is due to announce a four-year funding settlement that outlines plans for funding councils, which are all legally required to balance the books each year.

Mr Ebers said he is “filled with some concern” about how much Wokingham Borough Council will receive because the government uses a formula that is “skewed”.

The council set a budget of £143.48 million in 2020/21, but it expects its costs to rise by £14 million over the next three years.

“The cost of funding services in Wokingham is as high, if not higher, than elsewhere,” said Mr Ebers.

Bracknell News:

“We still have adult social care pressures and children’s social care pressures, like other authorities. The basic costs of running a unitary authority are very significant.

“We need to guard against too much money being skewed to special factors and areas of deprivation.

“It’s right that areas with higher levels of deprivation receive higher funding than us, but the extent to which it is done is not right.

“That’s because it ignores the basic cost of running a unitary authority.”

He added: “Despite the perception, we still have significant costs.

READ MORE: Unemployment and foodbank use soar during lockdown

“Our costs for care and things like waste collection and disposal are quite severe.”

The government has promised to carry out a review of its funding formula in 2021/22.

Cllr John Kaiser, executive member for finance, said the council must try and set balanced budgets, despite all the economic uncertainty, and protect the services which people across Wokingham rely on.

“This is like trying to land an aeroplane in a hurricane at the moment,” he said.

“It’s very, very complicated and we don’t know which way the wind is blowing.

“We as the council must protect the vulnerable but act responsibly at the same time.”