Council bill for financial experts to oversee Thurrock bad investments sale tops £11m

Thurrock Council is setting aside £11million for financial experts to help it offload more than £1billion of controversial investments.

The council says the smooth sale of a string of bad investments that saw it facing bankruptcy relies heavily on continuing to use experts to administer the complex sale in order to cut its debt burden. They will cost the council £11.1 to the end of 2025/26.

Two companies in the council’s investment portfolio, Toucan1 and the Just Loans Group were placed into administration in 2022, making recovery more difficult for the council.

The sale of solar energy company Toucan was completed in February 2024 and saw £510million recovered by the council.

The council has since confirmed it is taking legal action against against Liam Kavanagh and Rockfire Capital.

Presenting a report on the divestment programme at a cabinet meeting on Monday, Graham Snell, councillor responsible for finances, human resources and payroll, said the council needed help in selling the investment portfolio. He said: “There’s been a lot of talk outside of this chamber about how much money we’re spending to get this money back. It’s a very technical, very complicated process and it’s only right that we get the best help and assistance we can to make sure we get this done correctly.

“We didn’t do that going into this. We definitely need to do it coming out.”

Andrew Jefferies, leader of the council, added: “I don’t think residents would forgive us a second time, or even a first time, if we didn’t get the best expert advice that we can get to be able to carry out this. If we tried to do this ourselves and failed we would be rightly criticised.

“Hopefully the voices out there that are criticizing this are listening and perhaps reading this report and understanding why we’re doing this.”

The report to cabinet said: “Given the council’s lack of expertise, experience and capacity to engage in complex administration processes, the council has used a number of specialist financial and legal advisors to protect the council’s interests and work with the administrators to realise timely distributions to the council.

“They have also gathered information and undertaken investigations to inform potential litigation proceedings to recover anticipated financial losses.”

It added: “This specialist resource has enabled the council to divest and/or recover amounts from companies in administration, in excess of £630million before the end of the 20 24/25 financial year with further amounts anticipated in 2025/26.”

Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter