“We find it very hard to believe that either the forecast for how much we will need to borrow or the forecast for when and how we can pay off our borrowing is rooted in reality … we will have a lot of work to do to put the finances of this Council on an even keel”.
That’s the view of Liberal Democrat councillor Maria Gee, speaking during the council debate on the budget, held at Shute End on Thursday, February 20.
She cited a graph in the Treasury Management Strategy that suggested the peak debt on the council’s general account would be around £600 million in 2023, and then being debt-free in 30 years.
She added: “In addition to the £600m existing debt in 2023, the council is planning, according to the graph, to take out additional loans of £3.8 million a year, which are also to be paid back. That’s £114m in total for borrowing for capital projects until 2052/53, a level I find astoundingly low.”
She said that if the council borrowed £3.8m each year, by 2052/53 it would have paid off the existing £600 million and the additional £114m – an average repayment of almost £24 million per year.
“We have been assured that the cash required to repay borrowings of more than £700m will materialise. I have to say I would be more confident that this were so if I could see some figures that show exactly where this money is coming from.”
She asked: “Perhaps some of the 250,000 trees the council will plant are magic money trees?”