Friday, 18 October 2013

Borrowing levels

Sometime sitting and listening to my council colleagues I have the feeling that I have entered a parallel universe. On Wednesday night I attended a special meeting of the Place Scrutiny committee which was arranged to consider the proposals for flood defences on Shoebury Common. This comprised 3 alternative proposals worked up by council officers, 1 by the Friends of Shoebury Common, and one by Mr Ron Woodley on behalf of the Burgess Estate Residents Association (BERA). I was attending as sub for my cabinet colleague John Lamb who had been on council business in London and accordingly I have not had any detailed involvement to date in what is quite a technical issue. The first slightly bizarre twist was that Cllr Ron Woodley, Member for Thorpe, was an Indie sub at the meeting and there were at least 2 other BERA members to include Indie Leader Martin Terry. As the meeting progressed Cllr Woodley raised a number of questions and made comments which were clearly intended to curry support for the scheme proposed by Mr Woodley and his colleagues over the other schemes.Now call me old fashioned but isn't that a little odd. Whilst I am sure that Cllr Woodley and indeed Mr Woodley (for they are one and the same) was breaking no rule it hardly fosters the impression that the committee was approaching the appraisal of the schemes in an open and even handed manner. Also one of the problems is that we were advised that additional funding would not be made available if we chose a more expensive scheme where there was an alternative cheaper scheme which would do the job.In other words if we go for a more expensive scheme we will have to fund the difference and this was likely to require the funds to be borrowed by the council. This would include Mr Woodley's scheme. On Thursday night at full council we then listened to Cllr Terry castigating the Administration for the level of borrowing which seemed to have no connect with the comments made the previous night. The Indies have followed this running theme for some time suggesting that borrowing is too high even though the Council's experts say that it is at a level which is prudent and affordable. Howevert not only do they continue to fail to identify the borrowing which they would not have undertaken (because it would mean talking against a potentially popular scheme) but also are more than happy to press for their own pet schemes to be funded with borrowing.

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