Since 2010, due to government cuts, we have made around £173 million in savings. During the 2022/23 financial year, we estimate having to save at least another £18 million.
We’re also one of the lowest-funded councils in the country – the sixth lowest in fact – which means that more than many other councils, we need to look at other, creative ways to offset the very worst of the cuts we’ve had to bear.
With this in mind, and similar to what the government has done nationally, we have been able to borrow at low rate of interest over recent years. We use the money we borrow to invest in assets that support economic regeneration and service improvement, alongside providing a commercial return to the council.
This has led us to make investments in multiple assets, which are primarily heavily secured and most of which are ‘bricks and mortar’, like Birchwood Park. These investments are generating income, more than £20 million a year, and promoting economic regeneration in the borough.
Balancing the risks
We simply don’t receive enough funding to pay for services that people in our town deserve and need, especially our most vulnerable people, without making these investments.
All of our investments are, however, subject to meticulous due diligence and external expertise and we make each separate investment decision very carefully.
They are monitored on an ongoing basis and their performance reported to elected members on a quarterly basis. While we are aware that any investment we make isn’t risk free, we remain confident in our overall approach and always work to mitigate any exposures we have in investments in case things don’t go to plan. We have also deliberately put aside a £30 million reserve to mitigate risk.
Supporting policy decisions
All of our investments are made in accordance with Corporate Policies.
There are some particular initiatives and projects that we have invested in for policy reasons which often attract a lot of attention, including Redwood Bank, for example.