22 July 2022
Cotswold District Councils’ proposals to borrow £46.5 million to fund several solar farm projects - branded reckless by Member of Parliament

Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP for the Cotswolds has written to Robert Weaver, Chief Executive of the Cotswolds District Council to bring to his attention the Adjournment Debate he held on 27 April, on the Cotswold District Council's proposals to borrow £76.5 million to finance investment projects including five solar farm sites for a total of £46.5 million.  

The council’s annual core spending was only £11.2 million last year. From that £11.2 million, which needs to pay for all services if there is to be a balanced budget without a deficit, it would need to deduct around £3 million for the annual loan repayment, for the total loan of £76.5 million. The Council does not currently have the expertise to assess the viability of this loan, mortgaging the Council’s finances for the next generation. These green investments by the Council are not required to reach net-zero targets as there is plenty of private financial investment for such projects, it is not the local authority’s role to be competing with the private sector.  

The fact that the Cotswolds District Council has not properly reflected the costs of the repayment of the loan for the solar panels alone will be over £1 million plus the interest on the loan makes the project far less profitable than has been presented to councillors so far.

Cotswold District Council has also recently increased council tax by £5, which is a 3.6% increase in the tax bill for residents. That is above the official cap in England of 2.99%—the maximum allowed without a referendum of local council taxpayers.  Given the cost-of-living squeeze, the council should be considering every avenue possible to reduce the financial burden on hard-pressed families in the constituency.  

Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown said during the debate –  

“The proposals by Cotswold District Council to borrow a breathtaking £76.5 million, as stated in the plan circulated to its capital programme investment board and cabinet, clearly demonstrate financial incompetence amounting to a recklessness that has the potential to bankrupt the council. At the very least, it will mortgage the council for the generation to come. I urge Liberal Democrat councillors, in the interest of Cotswolds council taxpayers, to think again.”