Thursday, 17 September 2015

Woodley recommends more borrowing

I see that at next week’s Southend Council cabinet meeting Leader Ron Woodley presents his recommendations for the Corporate Asset Management Strategy 2015-2025.

It makes interesting reading but I did have to pinch myself to remember that this is the same Cllr Woodley who led an extended campaign against increased borrowing levels during the years prior to his election as Leader.

In particular it is interesting to note that in the report under his name it states that:

“The CAMS introduces a commercial property investment strategy….to set the network for the Council to actively invest capital in commercial property, strictly to generate long term revenue income. It is important to note that as with other investments made by the Council, these are more likely to be found outside the Borough and the strategy provides for this….”

The report also comments that “Currently no capital budget exists for the progression of a capital property investment strategy.” And suggests that to achieve a target of rental receipts of £1M by 2018 will require spending of £20M.

This will require reviewing “various borrowing options”.

So it would appear that the Administration is now proposing significant borrowing to fund the acquisition of commercial property investments, some of which will not even be in Southend, in the hope of generating an income return.

The potential risks are obvious however what a remarkable about face for Ron and his Independent Party colleagues who now seem to embrace the concept of higher borrowing.

Prime Ministers Questions

I have to say that I did sit through all of Prime Minister’s Questions this week to see how the new Labour leader performed. I am not a traditionalist and must admit that I approved of the more adult tone which he encouraged. Whilst the more confrontational style that we are used to did result in some entertaining one liners I tended to find that after a few minutes I was bored with the absence of real debate and by the childish antics of some backbenchers.

So well done on the change of tone, but other than that what a chronic performance by the Leader of the Opposition. David Cameron must be delighted to have been given such a splendid opportunity to set out his stall in the absence of any incisive supplementary questions or responses. When considered with some of the other obvious gaffes over the last few days it is not surprising that my Labour supporting friends are despondent.

It will be interesting to see if the new PMQ approach continues but if so perhaps the time is also right to consider scrapping some of the archaic practices which still operate in parliament, relocating to a chamber which is actually big enough to accommodate all our elected representatives, and dealing once and for all with the reform of the Upper Chamber to ensure that it is democratically accountable.