Councillors were left astonished by the cost of the Conservatives planned £53 million of borrowing at a meeting. The Finance Portfolio Holder indicated that it would cost the Council around £5 million every year to pay for interest payments on the huge increase in debt, until the borrowing is paid back.
Councillor Henry Vann said “The extra £53 million added to borrowing is going to have an enormous impact on the finances of this council. We know that the finances are already precarious, and this just pushes them closer to the cliff edge.
“Every extra £1 borrowed will need to be paid back and with interest – that’s taking funding away from providing vital frontline services.
“We are very concerned about where you are taking this council and the impact it will have on local residents. It’s crucial you get a grip on council spending – both revenue and borrowing to avoid a potentially catastrophic impact on local services from losing financial control now.”
After the meeting Councillor Vann said “It turns out Bedford Conservatives have been taking lessons at the Truss School of Economics. Borrow borrow borrow, mortgage your future for a couple of press releases now, cuts next year, and balancing the budget on the backs of the poorest. All during a cost of living crisis compounded by their own Government.”
Councillor Michael Headley also brought forward the Budget Overview and Scrutiny Committee’s concerns over the lack of plans from the Conservative administration to deal with the £12 million Budget overspend.
Councillor Headley said “Whilst there are some measures to bring this figure down, they will only bring it down to £8 million – which is still an unprecedented level. We are concerned that timely plans to balance the budget have not been put in place by the Executive. The £8 million remaining gap has not been addressed.
“The report talks about savings plans coming forward to the October Executive – but here we are at the October Executive meeting and there are still no plans. I’m concerned that there isn’t much appreciation for the scale and urgency of the issue. This was underlined by the Portfolio Holder’s repeated mistakes on key figures, claiming that the position this year was similar to last year – as you know this isn’t correct, the position this year is almost double last year’s figure.
“The more time passes without getting control of spending, the deeper the cuts you will have to make to balance the budget over a shorter timespan. We are very concerned that by failing to get a grip now, you will cause a greater impact on services to residents.”