Roads bor­row­ing would be fool­ish

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - OPINION -

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

Ger­rards Cross

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