Last night was the first opportunity I had to question Cllr Ron Woodley on his claim that he was reducing borrowing by £38m, thereby saving £2m a year in outgoings. I pointed out to him, that his draft budget papers showed an INCREASE in borrowing, over and above what the previous budget (and Administration) had proposed, of some £5.8m next year (15/16) and £9.6m over the next four years or so (15/16 – 18/19 ‘and later years’).
I do not mean to labour the point, but this is EXTRA borrowing, over and above what the previous Administration had proposed:
In the February 2014 budget papers the previous Administration proposed borrowings of:
2015/16 – £9.3m
2016/17 – £15.9m
2017/18 – £13m
A total of £38.2m
The current Administrations proposals include proposed borrowings of:
2015/16 – £24.3m
2016/17 – £16.1m
2017/18 – £15.5m
A total of £55.9m
This is some £17.7m MORE than the previous Administration proposed.
Things are never quite as simple as they look, and the Council can borrow from itself (spending short term surplus cash it has) – and who wouldn’t… but at the end of the day the Council will need that money and therefore have to borrow it. But, even making allowances for this (£10.3m ‘internal borrowing’), the proposed borrowing is going up by over £7m. For the eagle eyed of you, the reason for the difference to the £9.6m is, I believe, mainly because of the underspend in the 2014/15 budget.
Now, I, like the previous Leader of the Council, had no objection to borrowing – it just isn’t sensible for the Council to fund something the town will get a return from over the next 25 years in one year’s budget. But neither he nor I stood in the Council Chamber or distributed leaflets suggesting borrowing was too high, out of control, and that he wouldn’t borrow any more. There was even the suggestion of saving up for projects before starting them. Well that idea seems to have disappeared rather quickly!
Anyway, last night I asked him to explain how the paperwork that shows increased borrowings of £9.6m equates to his decreased borrowings of £38m.
What answers did I get?
The first ‘answer’ included: “I’ve managed it because I am a better person than you are.” (nice!)
When I asked him to answer the question, rather than try and be personal, his second ‘answer’ was to reel off what the additional borrowings would pay for. Well, I can read and that wasn’t what I’d asked him.
So I tried again. The third ‘answer’ included telling me that I didn’t understand (quite clearly that’s why I was asking!!) and that he had explained it.
It was noteworthy that the council’s chief financial officer kept schtum during these questions. So I have had no answer to what I feel is quite a simple question.
Cllr Ron Woodley is either wilfully misleading residents of the town or he is incompetent. I suspect it is the latter, but it would be nice to know!
His budget includes increased council tax, increased charges, increased borrowings and service cuts…. and he once had the audacity to tell me he was “the only true Conservative in the [Council] Chamber”.