The leader of Thurrock Council has spoken out in defence of the council’s finances, following claims made in a BBC report.

Last week, it was claimed that Thurrock Council is one of 11 UK authorities in danger of depleting their reserves.

But leader Rob Gledhill has slammed the claim, insisting the council’s finances are in a strong position.

He was critical of the use of earmarked reserves – funds bookmarked for projects – in the calculations, claiming “it has no bearing”, adding the council will continue to spend them for the “benefit of residents”.

The BBC report claimed the council had a 58 per cent drop in reserves between 2015 and 2018 – but insisted it was planned and that the authority was not running out of money.

He said: “This report appears to be based on incorrect assumptions and faulty maths. The idea that Thurrock Council could be in danger of running out of reserves is ludicrous. Thanks to our long-term economic plan and investment strategy we are in one of the strongest financial positions of any unitary authority in the UK. We currently have a four-year balanced budget and a published £16m surplus over the same period with no cuts to services as well as freezing council tax for this year – something less than 5 per cent of councils achieved last year.”

The council leader slammed the use of earmarked reserves by the BBC, and pointed towards major investment made by the council.

He added: “Earmarked reserves are set aside to be used to deliver specific improvements to the borough whereas general reserves provide a true measure of resilience. Our general reserves increased by almost 40% from £8m to £11m in 2017/18 which is a true indicator of how well our finances truly are.

“Despite increasing general reserves this council has invested significantly in Adult, Children and Environmental services including £7m for new bin lorries and providing funding for new local schools as examples.

“And we have gone above and beyond committing about £5m from surpluses created over two years to fund services councils do not have a legal duty to provide including £500,000 for mental health support in schools, £670,000 this year and last year to tackle anti-social behaviour, £1m for extra police over three years and £1.5m for environmental improvements.”