Councillor Hebb introduced the
report and stated that it outlined the mechanisms and instructions
through which officers could undertake investments, such as through
the Treasury Management Provision. He stated that last year
Thurrock had announced the investment strategy would finish, and
explained that this paper represented the beginning of the end. He
said that the approach had helped fund services such as additional
policing, increased funding for adults and children’s social
care; education; and mental health in schools. He explained that
central government was now less supportive of councils being
entrepreneurial in this way, and there was no longer the same
accessible market, so investments that matured would not be
renewed. He explained that this wind-down of the strategy would
lead to a reduction of borrowing by £350million. Councillor
Hebb then outlined that an Investment Shadow Board had been
constituted in autumn 2020 to consider investments and provide
democratic oversight, and described how this would continue, and
the Terms of Reference would be agreed in May 2021. He explained
that a summary of the Investment Strategy would also be published
on the Council’s website as an easy reference for residents
to understand the process. He summarised and stated that the report
had been agreed by the Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee,
and had been made available at the Investment Shadow Board. He
added that there were no new emerging recommendations, contrary to
what officers had presented at the meeting of the Corporate
Overview and Scrutiny Committee in January 2021.
Councillor Halden again thanked Councillor Hebb for his work on the report. He felt it provided residents with an accurate summary of the investment approach. He stated that Thurrock had worked hard to pay off debt, but still had to pay off longer-term, hard-core debt which had been accrued before 2016. Councillor Coxshall questioned how much hard-core debt had been inherited. Councillor Hebb responded that approximately £280-300million hard-core debt had been inherited, and this was hard to pay off as it was almost irredeemable. He explained that Thurrock would continue to work through this debt and pay it off as quickly as possible, where possible. Councillor Hebb also explained that the level of borrowing set out in the table in the report was the top-level figure and borrowing would not always go up to this figure. He then drew Cabinet’s attention to the table on page 48 which highlighted the difference in interest payable and interest receivable, and compared it to the graph from the previous agenda item, which outlined that the gap between spending power and spending requirement had now increased.
The Leader stated that the majority of borrowing which had been undertaken was short-term debt and had been repaid plus interest. He added that Thurrock had also invested in renewable energy, which remained stable throughout the pandemic, unlike other local authorities which had invested in shopping centres. He explained that the investment strategy had helped Thurrock earn money, which had been spent on services and residents, such as work on the A13, increased policing, and Clean It, Cut It, Fill It.
RESOLVED: That Cabinet recommended to Full Council:
1. The approval of the Capital Strategy for 2021/22 including the approval of the Annual Minimum Revenue Provision (MRP) statement for 2021/22.
2. The approval of the adoption of the prudential indicators as set out in Appendix 1.
3. Noted the revised 2020/21 and 2021/22 Treasury Management projections as set out in Annex 1, paragraph 2.32.
4. Noted the comments from the Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee, as set out in section 5.
Reason for decision: as outlined in report.
This decision is subject to call-in.