Council is £1.26 billion in debt but councillors say they are in control and have an upbeat view as council tax rise of 3.49 per cent is recommended

By Neil Speight

16th Jan 2020 | Local News

This evening's cabinet meeting discussed the authority's financial position
This evening's cabinet meeting discussed the authority's financial position


SENIOR members of Thurrock Council's cabinet gave upbeat messages as they reported on the council's finances at a meeting tonight when they recommended a 3.49 per cent increase in council tax.

That will consist of a 1.49 per cent increase in general tax plus a two per cent increase as an adult social care precept.

Much of the upbeat nature of the comments came about because of the council's investment strategy, which has raised many millions to be invested in local services – but the report did learn that the council is currently more than £1.26 billion in debt!

It has borrowed that money to invest in a number of businesses and organisations. It has spent £961.2 million of that money in schemes that are bringing in cash leaving a total net indebtedness on paper of £303.3m but it still has to pay the full sum back.

Far from being concerned about that level of debt, a significant part of which has been accrued by officer decisions with no reference to councillors, members of the cabinet said they felt the council was in a good place.

Some departments reported an overspend for the current financial year. Adult social care, for example, is set to be more than half a million over budget but finance portfolio holder Cllr Shane Hebb said the council was coping well in very difficult circumstances.

He said: "The department have been exceptional at dealing with exceptional pressures. The department has a track record of resilience, unfortunately we have had some issues but I know only too well everything and everything is being done to make sure that care is provided."

Children's services is set to record an overspend of £972,000, a figure that portfolio holder Cllr James Halden put in context by saying: "We inherited a multi-million pound overspend, we are now down to a much smaller figure.

"I would like to offer my personal congratulations to everyone involved as we build and strengthen the department.

"The reality is we are moving to a much firmer and positive situation than we have been for some time. We have unbelievable demand on the system but we are maintaining it."

Taking a wider view on the council's position, Cllr Halden added: "We have a very optimistic and positive look to our finances."

Environmental services is set to break even, winning plaudits from colleagues for portfolio holder Cllr Aaron Watkins, who said: "Well done, it's a great department, It has always been under our administration and we make no apologies for our investment. They had a lot of market pressures so well done for breaking even."

Cabinet members gave their support to further commitment to support policing in the borough and have approved a four year partnership with Essex Police to deliver additional officers, though no numbers were given. Council leader Rob Gledhill said: "We get the calls for more policing and we want to deliver on what we promised."

Cllr Gledhill summed up by saying: "We have got some really exciting schemes coming up.

"We have some pressures that are being absolutely managed.

"I am confident that we will be able to deliver on tackling anti-social behaviour and crime in our borough."


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