Council borrowing 'vital' to drive investment

A computer generated image of the proposed hotel on the site of Wilko's
A computer generated image of the proposed hotel on the site of Wilko's
Have your say

Blackpool Council is continuing to pay out millions of pounds in interest repayments, the latest figures have revealed.

For the current financial year, it will shell out £4.8m.

During the previous two years, the council paid out £9.5m in interest payments.

Coun Tony Williams, leader of the Conservative group on the council and who was given the latest figure after asking a question at a scrutiny committee meeting, claims much of this money has been “​spent on business start ups and new projects which so far have not delivered a significant return for the investment.”

But council leader Simon Blackburn said, while the amount being borrowed over the last five years has increased, interest payments have actually been reduced by seven per cent due to better financial management.

He says: “Sensible borrowing to fund or support the exciting developments that can already be seen around our town will help to drive it forward.”

Coun Williams claimed the council “doesn’t seem to have much to show for the huge amount of debt it has accrued.”

He added: “I realise that there are new developments in the pipeline but these are also unproven areas for the council to operate and own they are taking a huge gamble and risk and its the people of Blackpool who will suffer from the consequences of their mistakes.”

Recent borrowing includes £17.5m to build a hotel on the Wilkinson’s site at Talbot Gateway.

Coun Blackburn said investment was vital for the future of Blackpool.

He said: “In addition to several significant private and government funded projects, Blackpool Council is supporting a diverse range of projects to revitalise our community.

“In some instances, this has involved borrowing. Any potential loans and investments are always considered carefully and in great detail.

“If there is not a strong business case many proposals are rejected.”

The average interest rate on all loans over the past five years is less than two per cent.

He added: “If you compare this to the interest that someone might be paying on a home mortgage, the rate compares very favourably and should be considered in the context of what the investment is delivering in terms of positively transforming the town’s infrastructure and job creation.”