Sean Clark, Corporate Director of Finance, Governance and Property, presented the report that provided Members with a brief update on the Council’s investments and borrowing as at 31 March 2020 and following the Standard and Audit Committee meeting held on the 9 July 2020. That following Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee and Council in July to improve the democratic oversight of investments, Members were informed that a meeting has been called by Councillor Hebb to Leaders and this would take place next Tuesday and look at how this would go forward. This may result in changes to the constitution to bring forward a committee of some form. Members were informed that no further investments had been and this would be the avenue of report investments in more detail to the proposed new committee. Members were referred to page 142, paragraph 2.5, of the report that set out the key financial information and noted the increase in the Net Debt which had increased since 31 March 2020 due to the capital programme expenditure and the timing of council tax and business rate collections and saw this as a deferment rather than a loss.
Councillor Collins referred to paragraph 2.11 of the report that stated there had been no adverse impact from the start of COVID on the Council’s investment and the income streams had remained stable. Sean Clark confirmed the Council’s renewable energy investments had not been affected over this time and at this stage there had been no adverse due to COVID.
Councillor C Kent questioned what would happen if bond issues repaid their money earlier. Sean Clark confirmed that where people who had borrowed money from the Council have the ability to pay that back early. If this was the case the investment would finish early, the Council would get the funding back, the Council would then back to pay that back. The Council would therefore save on interest but lose on investment. Councillor C Kent questioned how this impact with the budget and should this be included on the risk register. Sean Clark confirmed that investments were already on the risk register and if anyone who the Council holds investments with came forward to repay early this would have an adverse impact on the MTFS with the positions already quoted would get worse unless further investments were made to counter those.
Councillor Spillman asked what the rough market value for the bonds if there were to be sold today. Sean Clark stated the market value bonds for the Council was at the price that the Council paid and that the level of debt was not linked to any increase or decreases in the valuation of the asset. If it was decided to dispose of the bonds it would depend on who was on the market and would want to purchase them.
Councillor Spillman questioned whether the Council would provide a programme of investments to support business and job growth in Thurrock. Sean Clark stated that if Councillor Spillman was referring to the nature of the types investments within this report this had not been done yet but possible requests could be possible but at this stage this was not the case and that no further investments were being progressed until the democratic overview had been looked into within the new proposed committee. Sean Clark stated that any other investments within Thurrock, the Planning Transport and Regeneration Overview and Scrutiny Committee had received reports on the Local Plan and the Economic Strategy which was a focus and drive from the Council on those areas which would support the investment and growth within the borough. Andy Millard stated that the Economic Strategy would be presented to Cabinet on the 16 September looking for approval to start a consultation. This would be a long term strategy with a series of implication plans which could deliver through the necessary phases. A short period would focus on recovery and then periods of growth and prosperity that would drive alongside the Local Plan.
That the Standards and Audit Committee noted the report.