Welsh £6m loan to cash-strapped English council ‘will be recouped’
Elgan Hearn, Local Democracy Reporter
Assurances have been given by a Blaenau Gwent financial chief that £6 million loaned to a crisis-hit council in England will be recouped in full.
At a meeting of Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council’s People scrutiny committee on Tuesday, October 18, councillors looked at the Treasury Management annual review report for the 2021/22 financial year.
Blaenau Gwent’s resources chief officer Rhian Hayden said that by the end of March, the council has £165.462 million worth of long-term debt and £62.365 million short-term debt.
During the 2021/22 financial year the council had made investments totalling just over £1 billion. This figure is a cumulative one with Blaenau Gwent investing small sums, several times over, for short periods of time.
Amongst the list of council’s and public bodies that that Blaenau Gwent has moved money to and from in 2021/22 is one that sets alarm bells ringing – Thurrock Council.
Blaenau Gwent has loaned £6 million to Thurrock, with a repayment expected at the end of November.
‘Drowning in debt’
But over the summer it was revealed that Thurrock is drowning in £1.5 billion worth of debt, after failed investments in energy schemes.
In September, the UK Government appointed Essex County Council as commissioners to effectively run Thurrock.
Cllr Ross Leadbeater said: “I notice there’s £6 million outstanding, which is a concern, is there any update on that?”
Ms Hayden said: “We have received notification from that council as they have the regulators in at the moment.
“We have had written confirmation from them that any loans we have given them will be fully repaid in line with the agreements we made.
“They have confirmed that to us.”
Ms Hayden added that Blaenau Gwent had “effectively managed its credit risk” throughout the year and had been “very risk averse” when it came to investments.
Committee chairwoman, Cllr Joanna Wilkins said: “This is a constant juggling act reviewing what’s coming in and going out.”
Ms Hayden explained that the need to invest is due in part to the agreement the council has with Barclays bank and that it can only keep a “maximum” of £6 million in the bank account overnight.
Ms Hayden said: “We have to move it out to elsewhere or we breach our contract, and they will start charging us – it’s cheaper to move it and earn a little bit of interest.”
The report was approved by the committee and will go on to be discussed at a full council meeting next month.
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