Roads borrowing would be foolish
LAST week your front page covered a debate about whether Buckinghamshire County Council should borrow £260 million to resurface the roads.
The statement reported ‘‘the culture of the council is not to borrow”.
In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. The council has and does borrow extensively where a good business case exists.
This must show that borrowing will either generate income or savings that at least cover the cost of the interest paid on the debt.
The council will have about £350m of debt over the budget period.
With roads, the problem is that there is no income generated and the amount saved on maintenance is relatively small and short-term.
By contrast, we would be faced with large interest payments for decades to come.
These payments would have to be found out of the money urgently needed for other vital services.
An added complication is that after May, regardless of who wins the general election, local government is certain to be faced with even more, and probably larger, cuts to its funding. We face a very difficult financial future.
Much as I would dearly love to resurface every road in the county, I will not pursue an attractive but foolish policy that will burden future generations of council tax payers with huge debts.
I don’t want to have to leave a note saying ‘there is no money left’.
Leader Buckinghamshire County Council
special report on Buckinghamshire County Council’s budget plans, on Thursday, January 15, pages 1 and 8-11.
It is time some realism and straight talking and thinking was injected into the financial management of Bucks CC and the discussions around it.
Bucks CC has a £470m deficit on its combined pension funds that can never be funded without massive increases in council taxes.
Bucks CC needs to borrow £250m for urgent and necessary infrastructure funding.
Bucks CC has £1.08bn in property plant and equipment assets, £742m of it in land and buildings.
Bucks CC has net assets of £569m and matching reserves but of these matching reserves, £383m is unusable. This is all smoke and mirrors.
It is time for a serious appraisal of how finances are structured and to what extent the long-term assets can be used to address and pay down the massive debts of the council.
I defy any Bucks CC councillor who is charged with prudent financial management of the county’s finances to give a clear and coherent summary of the county’s financial position from the all but impenetrable, 117-page, Bucks CC Statement of Accounts for the year ending March 31, 2014.
continues to be granted for perfectly good family homes to be knocked down and replaced – using up energy and other scarce resources – by yet more blocks of expensive apartments, for which there is a questionable demand.
And for what? Homeowners receive considerably more than the (already very high) market value for their houses.
The property developers, builders and architects make sizeable profits, with negligible benefit to the local economy and yet more unaffordable homes are built.
Surely the developers could, however, have used the same resources and still earned a reasonable return by building more affordable houses?
Surely the council should do more to facilitate this?
WG JEWERS South Park View