Agenda item

Capital Strategy 2020/21


Councillor Hebb, Portfolio Holder for Finance, presented the Capital Strategy report that covered the Council’s borrowing for capital purposes and included investments which were instrumental in financing capital programme that was designed to regenerate the borough and improve the borough’s open spaces. Last year the Council had received over £31m income from investments and projected for the coming year to be over £33m which equated to around 25% of this Council’s non grant income. Councillor Hebb stated the Investment Strategy had worked since October 2017 with statutory services safe and secure until at least mid-2023 and would fund additional services for the benefit of local residents such as £1m new fully warranted Police Constables, £0.5m injection funding to help primary care and education sector, front line environmental and highways department and £0.5m to help improve air quality in the borough.


Councillor Pothecary thanked Councillor Hebb for the report but had concerns on the high level of debt which had risen without a huge amount of democratic oversight and there being a lack of transparency of the level of debt the Council was currently in. The Capital Strategy Review had met and Corporate Overview and Scrutiny had made recommendations to improve member involvement to scrutinise the process and would not be agreeing to any increase until these recommendations had been fully implemented and would be voting against the capital strategy at this time.


Councillor Spillman thanked Councillor Hebb for the report and stated he had been very supportive of the investment strategy with demand rising and the Council had looked at more initiative ways to bring money into the borough to ensure the level of services continued. Although there were still questions to be answered such as the overspend on the A13 widening project.


Councillor Rice raised concerns the Council would be looking to borrow over £2m and asked for reassurance this had been managed in the proper manner. Councillor Rice also requested information on the capital programmes such as the A13 widening and the Stanford Le Hope rail station which was both overspent and questioned when the projects would be completed.


Councillor Duffin thanked Councillor Hebb and Officers for the report and voiced his support for the report. The report had been positive and proved how well things were going and the Council should be proud of this and should continue the trend to raise more investments to bring money into the borough.


Councillor Gerrish expressed this concern on the staggering level of debt that had arisen without any democratic overnight which was very risky and as Chair of the Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee had asked for more accountability had been disappointment the report contained no clear plan. Councillor Gerrish suggested that an investment committee be formed to overview and scrutinise those decisions.


Councillor Halden referenced the majority of the Council’s investments were short term and all the debts the Council had incurred were stable debts and Members should be proud of the capital plan delivered this evening by Councillor Hebb.


Councillor Gledhill stated the democratic oversight was being addressed and understood the concerns of Members when they saw such large numbers and suggested members asked appropriate questions at overview and scrutiny committees rather than relying on press coverage. Councillor Gledhill had some nervousness on the investment committee but understood some committee could be formed that would give steerage on individual investments. Councillor Gledhill reiterated the 82% of the debt was short term and would be paid back within a couple of years.


Councillor Mayes expressed his support for the report and stated investments made had been able to fund services for residents. With two external auditors giving positive opinions on Council’s finances which was a tribute to the Council.


Councillor Hebb responded as follows:


To Councillor Pothecary question – the levels of debt were managed well with 82% of debt being short term and paid back and Councillor Pothecary attendance at the Capital Strategy Review had been noted.


To Councillor Spillman appreciated his support but stated the report was about investment income and not so much around the capital programme and information on the A13 widening would come out in due time.


To Councillor Rice a report had been already been presented to Cabinet, Council and Overview and Scrutiny and stated without the investment, £30m would need to be cut from services and challenged Councillor Rice to say what services his residents would want to be cut.


To Councillor Duffin thanked him and appreciated the support given.


To Councillor Gerrish reference had already been made to the short term debt and how that debt was being managed well with two independent external auditors giving positive opinions on the Council’s finances. Councillor Hebb took Councillor Gerrish point on scrutiny and oversight and stated that some research could be useful to see what worked well.


Councillor Hebb summed up and stated that Members voting in favour of the recommendations would continue to fund the services that residents of the borough used and demanded and to start to fund the services that residents want.


The Mayor called a vote on this item to which the majority of Members voted in favour.




1.         That the Council approved the Capital Strategy for 2020/21 including approval of the Annual Minimum Revenue Provision (MRP) statement; and


2.         That the Council approved the adoption of the Prudential Indicators as set out in Appendix 1.

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