Backbench rebellion over £25m loan

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Latest politics news from the Suffolk Free Press, suffolkfreepress.co.uk, @sfpsudbury on Twitter

A backbench rebellion at Babergh District Council’s recent budget meeting led to a decision over £25million loans being reversed.

At last week’s full council meeting to discuss and approve next year’s budget, members refused to pass a provision that would have seen key councillors able to borrow and decide how to use up to £25million in loans.

Robert Lindsay, a Green Party councillor, said members were told the figure would have been set aside for “unspecified investment opportunities”.

Mr Lindsay added that the scrutiny committee, which he sits on, had recommended that the use of this money should be authorised by the full council.

In spite of this, council officers proposed that only strategy committee members would be given the chance to make decisions over its use.

“I was just one of many councillors who found this to be totally wrong,” said Mr Lindsay. “All councillors should have oversight of such vast expenditure.”

Council leader Jennie Jenkins said the money would come from the Public Works Loan Board and be used to invest in projects that could make the council money, adding that scrutiny committee members would have had the chance to call any expenditure plans back to full council.

In the end, the proposal was amended, with agreement that use of the cash must be approved by full council.

Responding to Babergh’s decision to freeze council tax for next year, Mr Lindsay said he did not agree.

“I believe we are sending the wrong message to our residents by having a council tax freeze,” he said.

“A rise of two per cent would have put an extra £2 on the average household council tax bill and would have sent the message that we need to raise revenues to keep council services going.

“Instead, we are now becoming dependent on running our services on the new homes bonus, which is simply a Government bribe to build new houses.”

Mrs Jenkins disagreed, stating the bonus was incentivising spending. She added that a two per cent increase would have required a referendum.