THURROCK Council has defended its financial management, saying the borough would have been worse off without the heavily-criticised investments administrations had made over several years.

Shane Hebb, councillor responsible for finance, told cabinet members that recent stories about the council debt levels which currently stand at £1.4billion had been misunderstood. The council has been criticised for a range of controversial investments which have now been curtailed by Government.

The council currently has a £34.3million budget shortfall. Job cuts and belt tightening across the council have still left about £4million to find.

However, Mr Hebb said the investments had brought in much-needed revenue.

He said: “The investment approach has generated £115million worth of income after £16million worth of interest payments are deducted.

“Quite simply without the amount of £16million worth of interest there would have been no £115million brought in to pay for services “All 49 councillors voted three times in 2017, 2018 and 2019 to allow borrowing to increase. it was this administration that proposed the cuts to borrowing levels at the start of this year. The truth is Thurrock have benefited from an 11.5 per cent return over this period from the approach.”

Mr Hebb said without the investments the council would be facing an extra £30million funding gap and reserves which stood at £8million when the administration started had now increased to £24million.

Mr Hebb added: “The investment strategy was universally backed by all the councillors in the chamber.

“This money has paid for services that residents rely on daily and has helped maintain the third lowest Band D council tax of any unitary authority.

“Thurrock finances are in better hands under this Conservative council versus the mess that Labour left.”

Labour leader, John Kent, said: “This is a desperate attempt to deflect attention from the fact that Thurrock Conservatives have completely lost control of the council’s finances. As a result, the hundreds of hard working council staff will lose their jobs, they are looking to close the Thameside, sell off Grangewaters and introduce fortnightly bin collections to balance the books. Conservatives have run the council for over five years - they have no one to blame but themselves.”