YORKSHIRE councils have been accused of saddling future generations with today’s debts, after new research suggested local authorities have extensive long-term liabilities and borrowings which often exceed their assets.
Campaign group the Taxpayers’ Alliance yesterday issued figures on councils’ liabilities, which include long-term loans and pension scheme deficits.
The data shows that in 2012/13 City of York Council had liabilities of £485 million and borrowing of £253 million – or £1,264 per head of population.
That figure puts York’s per head borrowing at 86th highest out of more than 400 local authorities nationwide.
A spokesman for City of York ruling Labour group said: “The so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance figures show Labour-run City of York Council has the same long term liability of debt percentage as Conservative run North Yorkshire. Also according to these figures the debt of Conservative North Yorkshire has increased by almost double that of York in the last year.
The amount the council pays each year to service debt is almost identical to when the Liberal Democrats ran the council. These figures that are freely available on the council’s website do not take into account how much debt was transferred to councils from the Conservative and Liberal Democrat government following the general election. The Taxpayers’ Alliance will continue with its attacks on the public sector whilst it has been previously reported some of their directors do not pay tax in the UK.”
In neighbouring Ryedale, the district council has no long-term borrowing at all but its long-term liabilities – £26 million – exceed its assets of just £18 million, and its long -term liabilities in 2012/13 stood at £516 per head of population.
In North Yorkshire borrowing stood at just £572 per head, but its liabilities were £1,558 per person – 211th highest in the country. And in Selby, where the population is just 84,000, the district council’s borrowings were £717 per head and liabilities were £1,034 per person.
Jonathan Isaby, chief executive of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, condemned what his organisation saw as a nationwide trend to postpone financial problems, and 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.”
However, the Local Government Association, which represents councils across the country, hit back, calling the report misleading.
A spokesman said: “Unlike central government, councils 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.”