Thurrock Council debt hits £8k per resident

Thurrock Council’s £1.4 billion debt is the equivalent of £8,000 per resident – the fourth highest in the country – analysis of Government figures have shown.

The borough is among councils across the country which owe a combined £97.8billion to lenders, according to analysis of data from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC ) equivalent to £1,455 per UK resident, as of September 2023.

Taking into account all types of local authorities, such as police and crime commissioners and combined authorities, the debt pile rises to £122bn.

Figures show Thurrock, which has a population of 175,902, owes £1,415,889,000 – £8,049 per Thurrock resident, the fourth highest average debt per person.

The council has planned to make £18.2million worth of cuts next year including a reduction in funding for social care packages. It has ruled out another 10 per cent rise in council tax but is yet to say what the increase will be.

A further £13.65m of savings will have to be found every year for three years from 2025, under the proposals – which will be voted on early next year.

Thurrock’s, well documented debts accrued after a string of disastrous investments made using money borrowed from other UK councils, lead to the announcement of a s114 notice, meaning the council is effectively bankrupt. Financial control of the council was handed over to Government appointed commissioners and a recovery plan is being worked on.

However, analysis of the true cost to every Thurrock resident was revealed by the Shared Data Unit.

Town halls across the country have bought hundreds of commercial assets from shopping centres, to office parks, cinemas, energy companies and housing developments.

Council leaders, who have seen government grant funding reduce by 40 per cent in real terms since 2010, have had to borrow increasing amounts to pay for those investments. This has mainly been through an arm of the Treasury known as the Public Works Loan Board.

Thurrock’s investments included failed green energy companies which the council is now cutting its losses and divesting itself of.

A DLUHC spokesperson said: “Councils are ultimately responsible for their own finances, but we are very clear they should not put taxpayers’ money at risk by taking on excessive debt.

“The Levelling Up and Regeneration Act provides new powers for central government to step in when councils take excessive risk with borrowing and investment.”

Thurrock Council did not respond to LDRS’s request for a comment.

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter