BOSSES of a debt-ridden council have been called to step aside as the government criticised the authority for continuing to fail residents.

The Slough Conservatives said they were “disappointed” to learn the commissioners, who were sent in by ministers to help fix the council’s woes, think the authority is still failing its duty to deliver best value a year after the council declared bankruptcy.

The commissioners, who arrived in the town in December, released a damning report last week, concluding the council is “still failing” residents and they were “not certain” the council could stand on its own two feet without “unprecedented” government support or increase council tax by up to 20 per cent above the cap.

They requested further powers to recruit to the top three tiers of the council without following the usual procedures in an attempt to get the right people in place, quickly, so the recovery can continue.

READ MORE: Slough Council "still failing" as finances "remain extremely serious"

Slough Borough Council (SBC) effectively declared bankruptcy in July 2021. It is needing to reduce its £680m borrowing debt and £479m blackhole by making £20m savings a year until 2029 and sell up to £600m of its assets.

Council leader James Swindlehurst (Lab: Cippenham Green) said the authority’s finances still remain “extremely serious” and accept the situation and the difficult decisions they will have to make in the coming years.

Conservative leader Dexter Smith (Colnbrook with Poyle) said he welcomed the extra powers to help speed up the recruitment process but called for the Labour leadership to step aside to allow the changes necessary to happen quickly.

He said: “Every day the council delays solving its financial and organisational problems, the cost to Slough’s residents rises – paying interest on SBC’s debts takes around one-third of the council’s income, and that will increase as interest rates rise and as lenders become more reluctant. That is why the Secretary of State, Greg Clerk, has said: “…difficult decisions must be taken to protect hardworking taxpayers”. SBC Services in some areas are already failing.

READ MORE: Slough Council has "long way to go" to restore finances

“It is disappointing to learn that both the commissioners and the government think the pace of change in Slough is insufficient to get the job done – they are saying the council is not meeting the requirements of ministerial directions and are continuing to fail to deliver best value for residents.

“To this, Slough Conservatives say, if the council’s Labour leadership are not up to the job, they should step down now rather than block the changes that are needed.”

He added: “The Lead Commissioner wrote on June 9 to say that by the beginning of September a detailed Action Plan needed to be produced by the council’s leaders, so far (halfway through that period) there is no evidence of that happening – no extra meetings, no progress reports, just drift.”