A short while back, we put up this post about the London Borough of Croydon experiencing financial difficulties and having to issue a Section 114 notice: One to watch over in Croydon… We wrote the post because what Croydon is now going through could possibly happen in Thurrock as well. Thurrock Council has a growing shortfall in it’s budget. One possible solution for the council was a sell off of some of their assets but they have been told by officers at the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government they can’t go down this route. This is how it was covered by Thurrock Nub News: Thurrock’s finance chief trying to find a way to fund cash shortfall after being told he can’t sell off assets.
It looks as though the finance director of Thurrock Council, Sean Clark, has got a massive headache on his hands. One exacerbated by the ‘investments’ financed by over £1 billion in borrowing not performing as well as hoped for: Under pressure? The council are having to borrow at higher than normal rates to meet short term repayments on the loans taken out to finance this ‘investment’.
Assets include land so for those of us concerned about the future of council managed open spaces across Thurrock, not being able to sell them off could be seen as a good thing. However, when the council is under pressure to pay back loans and deal with a budget shortfall, something will have to give. That ‘something’ is most likely going to be services which inevitably will end up being cut. It’s going to be a case of Austerity 2.0 and it will be bloody painful.
If you want an illustration of how the system of local governance we’re obliged to endure is no longer fit for purpose, Thurrock Council provide a ‘perfect’ example. To try and dig themselves out of a self inflicted hole as a result of an ill conceived borrowing and investment strategy, the council tried to flog off their assets only to be told no and are now most likely planning deep service cuts. What an utterly shit choice for residents to have foisted on them – to either see valued assets such as open spaces being sold off or to face Austerity 2.0.
All this sorry and increasingly painful saga shows is that not only is the system of local governance we have totally unfit for purpose, it’s starting to unravel. How this plays out is not easy to predict. All we do know is that it’s us, the residents of Thurrock who will be made to pay for the hubris and ineptitude of our council. The interesting question will be how people react to what’s coming and whether there will be any push back and resistance.