Support our Nation today - please donate here
News

Council in almost £200m debt

17 Jan 2024 2 minute read
Tenby, Pembrokeshire

Bruce Sinclair Local Democracy Reporter

Pembrokeshire County Council has debts of nearly £200m, amounting to more than £1,500 a person, BBC research has said.

For more than a decade, town hall chiefs across the UK have been encouraged to borrow funds to invest in local schemes and commercial properties.

But after recent high-profile failures and with their combined debt level UK-wide now standing at £97.8bn there are fears that many authorities will go bust.

Not an isolated case

BBC Shared Data Unit analysis of data by the Department for Levelling Up shows UK councils owe a combined £97.8bn to lenders, equivalent to £1,141 per resident, as of September 2023.

Taking into account all types of local authorities, such as police and crime commissioners and combined authorities, the debt pile rises to £122bn.

Based on the figures analysed by the BBC Shared Data Unit, Pembrokeshire has the 14th highest level of council debt per person in Wales, and the 100thhighest in the UK; neighbouring Ceredigion in 15th and 104th place respectively, while Carmarthenshire occupies sixth and 59th positions.

Pembrokeshire, with a population of 123,669, had a total amassed debt of £192,064,000, or £1,553 per person.

Ceredigion, population 70,658, had a total amassed debt of £106,867,000, or £1,512 per person; Carmarthenshire (population 188,191) had a total debt of £402,424,000, or £2,138 per person.

All financial data refers to quarter two of the 2023-’24 financial years.

Encouragement

The Wales total (population 3,105,410) was £5,684,341,000; with Swansea the highest and Bridgend the lowest of the 22 authorities.

For the past decade, councils UK-wide have been encouraged to make commercial investments to provide an alternative source of income aside from the usual mix of grants, council tax, rates and fees and charges.

Town halls across the country have bought hundreds of commercial assets, from shopping centres, to office parks, cinemas, energy companies and housing developments.

But council leaders, who have seen government grant funding reduce by 40 per cent in real terms since 2010, have had to borrow increasing amounts to pay for those investments.

In recent years, various commentators have warned that the debts held by councils – which must balance their budgets every year – are unsustainable. In 2020, chair of the Public Accounts Committee Dame Meg Hillier said the Government was “blind to the extreme risks” of council borrowing levels.

Pembrokeshire County Council has declined to comment on the BBC figures.

Ceredigion has been approached to comment.


Support our Nation today

For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
12 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
John. 6
John. 6
1 month ago

Another Welsh council run by incompetents bordering criminal negligence, who will just blame all their failures on everyone else.

onedragonontheshirt
onedragonontheshirt
1 month ago
Reply to  John. 6

That’s what the Tories would have you believe… the real reason, of course, is that central government funding for local councils in the UK has been cut by 27% since 2010*.

*Source: https://www.local.gov.uk/about/campaigns/save-local-services/save-local-services-council-pressures-explained

TomTom82
TomTom82
1 month ago

Is Pembrokeshire council Tory? You can’t blame the Conservatives for this council borrowing money it can’t pay back on stupid vanity projects and free stuff for the terminally unemployed.

Stephen Salter
Stephen Salter
1 month ago
Reply to  TomTom82

No, it mostly independents, labour and Tory are 10 each

Stephen Salter
Stephen Salter
1 month ago

It’s true there has been a cut, but they’ve known about it, and some councils haven’t had the business acumen to manage it properly. I might be wrong but all the councils that seem to be in dire straights are run by labour. It’s only after they go bankrupt do they start to cull jobs and fix their incompetence. I bet every year they’ve given themselves a pay rise too. I do think councils should be investigated by an independent auditor. Look at Caerphilly council weren’t all the execs giving themselves crazy pay rises. Nothing criminal came from it, perhaps… Read more »

Canute
Canute
1 month ago
Reply to  Stephen Salter

👍

TomTom82
TomTom82
1 month ago

This is perhaps another reason not to endorse independence. If a single council can fall £200 million into the red, just think what those geeks in Cardiff could achieve? Most of Wales’ money comes from Westminster. If we we’re ever a independent Nation that debt would probably cripple us. Don’t allow your council to borrow millions and make YOU pay for their incompetence.

David Owen
David Owen
1 month ago
Reply to  TomTom82

Birmingham is bust as are many other english councils.This is due to austerity over the last 14 yrs imposed by the Tories in Westminster The same in Wales the cuts to the block grants run into a quarter of the budget.

Johnny Gamble
Johnny Gamble
1 month ago
Reply to  TomTom82

Do you know how much the National Debt of the UK is?

Linda Jones
Linda Jones
1 month ago

Little wonder councils are struggling given tory austerity over the past 13 years. The cuts have been widespread and deep to the extent that UK infrastructure cannot function. From councils to the police to the NHS to prescription drugs etc nothing works. Tory incompetence, greed and corruption is a wrecking ball to the lives of ordinary people

topmum
topmum
1 month ago
Reply to  Linda Jones

So easy to blame others for your own short comings! You only have to look at the £30mill+ spent on the ill judged 20 mph speed limits and its £90mill+ hit on the economy to see how the local population is being hit!
Remember….The consequences of your actions are your responsibility!

Peter
Peter
1 month ago

Wales a country of paupers, and not likely to get any better until we get rid of the Senedd.

Our Supporters

All information provided to Nation.Cymru will be handled sensitively and within the boundaries of the Data Protection Act 2018.