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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Slough Council debt levels revealed as equating to around £3k per resident

The staggering amount of debt that Slough Borough Council has amassed

The huge scale of Slough Borough Council’s debt it has amassed has been revealed, as it equates to almost £3,000 per resident.

It comes as the council is about to raise council tax by 8.5 per cent this year as government commissioners continue to scrutinise the borough’s finances.

The stark debt situation has been highlighted in a nationwide report by the BBC Shared Data Unit.

It showed that Slough Borough Council was £430 million in debt in Quarter 2 of the 2023/24 financial year.

That is the 69th highest amount of debt by an authority in the country.

It also means that the amount of debt per person in Slough was £2,717, as the borough has a population of 158,289.

In comparison, West Berkshire Council has £1,136 of debt per person and Oxford City Council had £1,241 of debt person.

Both of these authorities have a similar population size between 155,000-165,000 people.

Slough Borough Council issued a Section 114 notice in July 2021, which resulted in government commissioners being appointed to scrutinise the council’s finances. 

A council spokesperson said: “Slough is continuing the financial strategy it started since the S114 notice was issued in 2021, to indicate that we did not have enough money without exceptional financial support.

“To ensure our longer-term financial sustainability we requested a multiple-year Capitalisation Direction from central government, funded by a combination of receipts from the sale of capital assets that we owned as well as borrowing.

“Our debt is reducing over time in line with the changes that we are making at the council, reducing spending, increasing income, and looking to transform the way we deliver our services to be more efficient.

“A draft budget was proposed with more details last December and will be considered at cabinet this week and full council the week after.”

All councils have a capital programme that funds one-off projects, such as road repairs, new infrastructure, or public realm improvements, and are usually funded via borrowing, developer contributions (S106), and government grants.

Other than that, councils are meant to have a balanced budget, and borrowing cannot be used to pay for day-to-day expenses such as bin collections and providing social care.

Slough council’s budget measures for 2024/25 include a complete freeze on borrowing, finding £12.183 million in savings and increasing fees and charges.

Most charges for parking such as residents permits and business permits will increase by seven per cent.

Of the 8.5 per cent council tax increase, 7.99 per cent of that will pay for council services, with the remaining 0.51 per cent will go directly into paying for adult social care such as care homes and looking after the disabled.

The majority of the council’s £13.855 million budget pressures, £9.630 million, is due to the cost of adult care services.

It is the first budget since the council was taken over by the Conservatives following the 2023 local elections.

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