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Wirral Council criticised for £700m liability
COUNCIL chiefs have defended their money management after it was revealed the authority has more than £700 million of liabilities.
Campaign group the Taxpayers’ Alliance released figures on councils’ liabilities on Thursday, which include long-term loans and pension scheme deficits.
The figures show that in 2012/13, Wirral Council had liabilities of £750 million and borrowing of £214 million – or £699 per head of population.
But Wirral Council says the authority has improved on its financial position since last year, with liabilities for 2013/14 down to £640 million.
Joe Blott, strategic director for transformation and resource, told the Globe: “The figures released refer to 2012/13. Since then we have seen a big improvement in the authority’s financial position, achieving a balanced budget at year end.
“For 2013/14, the council’s liabilities were £640m and assets were £695m. We have reduced our pension liability, which made up more than half of 2012/13’s figures, by £120m, following the regular three-yearly external revaluation.
“We will however continue to review our assets, with the aim of releasing those deemed surplus to requirements to generate capital receipts. In some cases we are reinvesting in improvements to buildings and infrastructure, to keep the need to borrow to a minimum.
“We are pleased that we have improved our financial position, however in meeting the costs of providing day-to-day services, the council continues to face major challenges due to reductions in government grant.”
Jonathan Isaby, chief executive of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, condemned what his organisation saw as a nationwide trend to postpone financial problems.
He said: “It is nothing short of immoral for councils to pile further debt on the next generation.
“Britain’s public finances are in real trouble and local authorities can no longer avoid tough choices by putting the bill on taxpayers’ credit card.
“Councils must look again at overgenerous pensions and wage a war on waste, or Britain’s debt burden may soon become too heavy to bear.”
The Local Government Association, which represents councils across the country, called the report “misleading”.
A spokesman said: “Unlike central government, council’s can’t borrow money to meet their day-to-day running costs.
“Instead, council borrowing is used to meet the cost of long-term investments, such as key infrastructure projects including new schools and transport links, which ensure taxpayers are able to continue benefitting from high quality services.”
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