Those of you who follow the political scene in Thurrock will be well aware of the furore surrounding Thurrock Council’s strategy of borrowing money from other local authorities to invest in ‘green bonds’ with the aim of getting enough of a return to help them balance the books. This is just one of a number of pieces we’ve written about this: Under pressure?
At a meeting of Thurrock Council’s corporate services overview and scrutiny committee held on the evening of Tuesday 10 November, the finance director Sean Clark found himself in the hot seat after the council admitted to having to borrow another £125 million to try and balance the books. This is how the proceedings were covered by Thurrock Nub News: Media coverage has not helped council’s financial position says Thurrock’s financial guru who has borrowed hundreds of millions. Clark made no secret of the fact that there are pressures on the council’s budget and as a consequence, there will be ‘a reduction in posts’ throughout the authority.
Here’s the kicker – Clark implied that the council’s ability to borrow had been changed by being put under scrutiny by critical media coverage of its strategy. He suggested that some local authorities were now more reluctant to lend to Thurrock Council because they didn’t want to come under media scrutiny. Reading between the lines, it would appear that Clark and the rest of the cabal of senior officers and ruling group councillors would prefer it if the media, local and national, would lay off asking awkward questions about the council’s strategy.
We, the residents of Thurrock, pay the salaries of the likes of Clark and the expenses of the councillors – we have every right to put them under scrutiny. Council tax payers in the local authorities that have lent money to Thurrock Council also have every right to know what’s being done with that money. In an era of an increasingly tame media, thank f**k there are outfits such as the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and Thurrock Nub News who are willing to ask awkward questions in a bid to get to the truth f what’s really going on at the council.
Incidentally, the council were also quizzed on the overspends on the A13 widening project and the botched rebuilding of the railway station at Stanford-le-Hope. Unsurprisingly, Clark declined to give any details. He did however indicate that it may well be council taxpayers who will be picking up the tab for the outstanding balances on both of these projects. So, those of us living in the eastern part of Thurrock who have been adversely impacted by the screwing up of both of these infrastructure projects may well be the ones bailing out the council!
As we’ve written more times than we care to remember, the council, officers and ruling group councillors alike, are supposed to be the servants of the residents. Instead, they’re behaving like untouchable, autocratic rulers who will not tolerate any criticism or scrutiny. If they think we’re going to let them get away with this, they’re very much mistaken…