Interest on debt equivelant to ‘17,000 households’ council tax’
Debt at West Sussex County Council topped £310 million while then leader Henry Smith, now Crawley MP, was in charge, a Labour councillor has said.
Cllr Chris Oxlade (Bewbush and Ifield West) said the council had gone from debt-free in 2000 to forecasted debts of £457.6m in 2014.
This year’s interest of £19.4m was the equivalent of council tax from 17,000 households, he said at a full council meeting at County Hall on Friday (February 15).
But his comments were rounded on by critics who said being lectured by Labour on debt was like being lectured by a ‘serial killer on healthy living’.
Cllr Oxlade, speaking on behalf of Labour colleague Cllr Brenda Smith (Langley Green and West Green), said: “Interesting that under the then leader Henry Smith now MP for Crawley, county council borrowing over the seven years he was in charge topped 310 million pounds.
He added: “This year the interest we have accrued is hitting council tax payers to the tune of £19.4 million. That’s close to two thirds of the schools and education budget for last year.”
But Cllr Pete Bradbury (Con, Cuckfield & Lucastes) said: “I can’t help but observe how amusing it is to be lectured by members of the Labour party on structural debt. It’s a bit like being lectured by a serial killer on healthy living.”
Cllr Simon McDougall (Lib Dem, Bersted) said: “When your party starts apologising for the mess it left this country in we might actually start to move forward because your economic credibility is still in tatters.”
Crawley MP Henry Smith, who was not at the meeting, said the Labour Government had removed the cap on borrowing for local authorities, giving West Sussex County Council the worst financial settlement of any council and severely restricting capital spending. He said: “This meant that the council had to borrow to maintain services and, for example, build new schools for Crawley.”
A council spokesman said: “The council’s level of debt is actually quite low in comparison to others.”
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Weather for West Sussex
Saturday 18 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 15 C
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Wind direction: West
Temperature: 9 C to 15 C
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