Could the long running saga of Thurrock Council’s secret and dubious investment strategy be entering a new phase? With little democratic or public scrutiny and using delegated powers, the council took out loans from more than 150 local authorities and poured more than £800m into what they believed to be money-spinning renewable energy ventures in an attempt to become more financially self-sufficient.
The First-Tier Information Tribunal (General Regulatory Chamber) has ruled that Thurrock Council now has to disclose how it invested huge sums borrowed from hundreds of other local authorities. The council’s controversial investment plan, which involved borrowing £1bn from the public purse for secretive deals in green energy, was first revealed by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism last year.
This is how the Bureau reported on the ruling from the tribunal: ‘Victory for taxpayers’: Bureau wins fight to reveal council investments – The Bureau of Investigative Journalism | 17.03.21. This is how the ruling was covered by Thurrock Nub News who have been co-operating with the Bureau on its investigation into the council’s investment strategy: Will a page be turned on the book of Thurrock Council’s billion pound investments’ Or will the council lose a battle but win its war for secrecy’ – Thurrock Nub News | 17.03.21.
For the record, these are some of the keys posts we’ve published about this sorry saga:
How much damage will this financial black hole do? – January 5, 2021
Something for Thurrock Council to ponder… – December 19, 2020
Thurrock Council sliding into the mire – November 23, 2020
One to watch… – October 25, 2020
This is right off the scale! – May 24, 2020
However, there may well be a few plot twists to come. The council have said: “Thurrock Council will now have an opportunity to submit evidence to the tribunal in support of exemption.” Whether they take this opportunity remains to be seen. Pressure still needs to be applied to them to abide by the ruling of the tribunal and to be open with the public of Thurrock about what they have done. We can’t allow Thurrock Council to start backsliding on this.
If the council do end up opening up about their investment strategy, when it comes to transparency and accountability to us mere plebs, this should just be the start. There are many other issues Thurrock Council owe us some long overdue honesty about. Two that spring to mind are the botched and delayed ‘re-building’ of the railway station at Stanford-le-Hope and the overdue, over budget widening of the A13.
Lastly but by no means least, we’d like to thank both The Bureau of Investigative Journalism and Neil Speight of Thurrock Nub News for their efforts in shining a light on the murky dealings of Thurrock Council. This is the kind of proper, investigative journalism that we need a lot more of.