Wiltshire

Swindon Labour group slams borough council's £80m debt

A council in Wiltshire has been accused of racking up debts so large that one year's interest repayments almost match spending cuts.

Swindon Labour Group said Swindon Borough Council had budgeted £11.5m to be spent next year on the interest of an "utterly disgraceful" debt of £80m.

A spokesman for the Conservative-controlled council said suggestions of a debt problem were "nonsense".

The authority has proposed savings of £14m in its 2012/13 budget.

'No problem'

The leader of the Labour group, Jim Grant, said: "This administration is completely out of control and it is council-tax payers who are paying the price, paying £11.5m each year just servicing the interest payments on the council's debt."

Garry Perkins, the council's deputy leader, said "there simply isn't a problem".

"Borrowing is how business works, and it's how most people buy their houses, with a mortgage," he said.

"It's only a problem if the repayment costs are crippling, which they're not - our debt interest is about 4%, again below average.

"We have borrowed sensibly and have used the money to invest in better services, and we can afford the repayments.

The draft budget for 2012/13 was debated at a cabinet meeting on Thursday and has now been put forward for public consultation.

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