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Letter: GBC’s Debt Legacy is the Conservatives’

Published on: 13 Feb, 2024
Updated on: 17 Feb, 2024

Walnut Bridge

From: Ben Paton

In response to: Why Is GBC Paying for Bridges?

John Murray asks who should pay for the Walnut and Ash Road bridges but the question should be who incurred the liabilities?

Guildford Borough Council gave a breakdown of the composition of its £300 million, medium-term debt. The largest component was Weyside Urban Village. That alone created an £80 million  debt – with more in the pipeline.

See earlier Dragon coverage: GBC’s Lead Finance Councillor Answers on the Borough’s Financial Challenge and We Still Need More Clarity on GBC’s Finances

It is beyond dispute that the Guildford Conservatives created the liabilities making up the £300 million with the willing cooperation of the Guildford Liberal Democratss.

Ash road bridge (CGI)

R4GV (Residents for Guildford & Villages) went along with its inheritance. But was it ever feasible to try to reverse projects like Weyside Urban Village? They are the legacy of a disastrous Local Plan.

The boasted prudence deployed by the Lib Dems and Conservatives has turned out to be an illusion. Not quite as bad as the Conservatives’ performance in Woking. But going in the same direction.

Operating surpluses in Local Government Accounts often just reflect the legacy of owning a large stock of Council Houses – where the rental income exceeds the outgoings. No one today in Guildford can take much credit for that. The Council Houses were built after WW2.

And there is now a pall of mismanagement, and possibly corruption, hanging over the council’s handling of its Housing Revenue Account into which is paid the council tenants’ rent. That did not arise overnight either.

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Responses to Letter: GBC’s Debt Legacy is the Conservatives’

  1. John Murray Reply

    February 15, 2024 at 4:59 pm

    I never asked about payment for any bridges, that was Mrs Coleman to whose enquiry John Redpath was responding. All I did was draw attention to the operating results for the council under the last Tory administration and under the subsequent coalition. I am not sure what is the significance of one aspect of income (council housing) as there are multiple income streams and my point is that spending more than income will eventually lead to problems regardless of the source of the income.

    As regards borrowing, this was (short-term and long-term) £213.9million when the Tories last took office in 2015 and had fallen to £213.0million by 2019 when the coalition took over. No great achievement, I agree, but by March 2023 the figure had risen by £82.3millions to £295.3million.

    If the coalition chose not to revoke the WUV plan then they must have thought that it was a good idea.

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