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Former Bucks councils borrowed £35m in final year

A report on the new council's adopted debt is being discussed today.

Published by Local Democracy Reporter Oliver Sirrell at 1:34pm 10th June 2020. 3-minute read.

Former Bucks councils borrowed £35m in final year

More than £365 million of debt was racked up by the county’s five former councils before the new Buckinghamshire Council was created.

Figures from a report produced for the new Buckinghamshire authority show an increase in borrowing of £35 million from March 2019 to March 2020.

Bucks County Council, as well as the district councils in Wycombe, Aylesbury Vale, Chiltern and South Bucks, borrowed the money over several years for their capital spending programmes.

Capital spending sees authorities splash out on refurbishments to its buildings, invest in commercial properties and add new infrastructure around their patches.

Money

Of the £365 million borrowed by the five councils up to March 2020, £330 million was borrowed from the Public Works Loan Board (PWLB).

The PWLB is part of the treasury and its purpose is to lend money to local authorities.

According to the report, “the council’s main objective when borrowing money is to strike an appropriately low-risk balance between securing low-interest costs and achieving certainty of those costs over the period for which funds are required.”

The Treasury is set to ban spending on commercial properties, such as retail centres and offices, however, as many local authorities find their investments “battered” by the coronavirus crisis.

The other £30 million in loans comes from lenders for long-term investments.

Bucks / Buckinghamshire Council
The new Bucks Council is discussing the report today (Weds)

These lenders have the option to periodically revise the interest rate of the loan, meaning the borrower has the option to pay the increased interest rate or pay back the loan.

Despite the total sum, Bucks Council bosses say the five former councils’ investment activity “conformed to all approved strategies” and there were no financial difficulties.

The report read:

“Each [former] council had their treasury management strategies approved during February 2019.

“The general policy for all is the prudent investment of its treasury balances, and the cost-effective borrowing to finance long term investment in the council’s assets.”

The report also shows the councils made investments worth £135 million as of March 2020.

Councillors sitting on Buckinghamshire Council’s audit and governance committee are set to discuss these figures at a meeting today (10/6).

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