Several media outlets have published this week a BBC analysis of "total amassed debt" for local authorities. This shows Eastbourne Borough Council's debt as £113 million, despite a recent corrected analysis (including short-term debt of £67 million) to arrive at a much higher total of £181 million: this equates to £1,782 per resident, the highest in East Sussex.
Conservative Group Leader at Eastbourne, Councillor Robert Smart, had explained this gross reporting error to Full Council six months ago, and called for the Lib Dem Leaders at the authority to resign. Despite this omission being explained, all the Lib Dem councillors voted in favour of this flawed report.
"It is extraordinary that this gross error has now been perpetuated through a BBC analysis and reported in numerous media outlets", says Councillor Smart.
Last year, Councillor Smart explained the error to CIPFA who have undertaken a financial review of EBC on behalf of Government. As a result, they have confirmed that thy were misled by EBC and have redrafted their report which they have submitted to the relevant Government Minister.
The graph (below) shows that Eastbourne council has quadrupled its total debt in the past nine years through its long-term financial mismanagement. This precedes issues relating to next year's budget.
There is no repayment plan for this additional £67 million of short-term debt, but is continually rolled over. Further, any minor repayment of long-term debt is funded by even more short-term debt. Conservatives say the borrowing is "out of control" and "reckless", and follows the council having to secure an effective bailout during Covid, which the town's MP, Caroline Ansell, secured with Government Ministers.
"It’s like a home owner funding a house purchase on a credit card", explains Councillor Smart. “It is vulnerable to market interest rates and has pushed the borough’s total annual interest bill close to £5 million which Eastbourne council tax payers are lumbered with paying each year."
Eastbourne's mounting debt under the Lib Dems