Posted: 26.02.20 at 20:54 by The Editor
COUNCILLORS have voted through a proposal to take Thurrock Council’s borrowing potential to more than £2 billion pounds within two years three times more than any other authority in the country.
There was considerable opposition to the capital strategy put forward by Conservative portfolio holder for finance Cllr Shane Hebb, with particular focus on the lack of democratic scrutiny on how and from where money will be borrowed.
Council borrowing has already touched a high of £1.2 billion but the Conservative administration say it is a cost-effective way of raising money to improve services.
They are able to borrow money at very low rates and then invest it, bringing in a significant dividend that allows them to pay it back in the short term.
Opinions varied across the chamber at this evening’s full council meeting with Conservatives highlighting many of the benefits the cash it raised from investments has brought, including environmental improvements, while Cllr James Halden emphasised the security of the investments and borrowing, saying: “All the debts the council has are stable debts.”
Labour group leader Cllr Jane Pothecary said: “It concerns me about high the debt has got with very little democratic scrutiny” as she called for the council to bring in strategies with much more accountability.
Cllr Gerard Rice said he had ‘quite a few’ of his ward residents who were very concerned about the council borrowing £2 billion and he wanted assurances that the debt was being managed ‘in the proper manner’.
Labour's Cllr Oliver Gerrish warned that councillors were “writing the biggest blank cheque in the history of Thurrock Council”
Cllr Luke Spillman, leader of the Independent Group, said he recognised the benefits of borrowing, but did question the levels of transparency and scrutiny, though his group colleague Cllr Jack Duffin said he applauded the initiative and said he would welcome more ‘innovative’ investment.
According to Government figures, the authority with the second highest amount of short term borrowing is Lancashire with £622 million followed by Plymouth with £377 million.
The capital strategy was passed by a majority.