Self-congratulations was in the air on Tuesday night as the senior members of Hastings Borough Council (HBC) met in cabinet to review the authority’s financial strategy.
Under discussion was the council’s financial performance as members reviewed the Treasury Management Report.
Chief Finance Officer Peter Grace told the meeting the council’s financial strategies had worked well. In the year that ended on March 31st HBC had taken on an additional £9.4m in debt while members considered that a return on its investment of 1.09 per cent should be, “seen as quite good”.
The Treasury Management report that councillors were considering deals with the management of the organisation’s borrowing, investments and cash flows, its banking, money market and capital market transactions and the effective control of the risks associated with those activities.
Councillor Peter Chowney, the council’s lead member on financial matters told the meeting the council’s financial strategy was ‘robust’ an that despite the ‘economic chaos’ of the last months during the Covid crisis HBC’s financial strategy had proved to be the right one.
“Our investment strategy and the way we have maximised our return on investment and used borrowings from the public works loan board has worked out well,” Mr Chowney said.
He went on to say that HBC’s borrowing has been ‘modest’ when compared to some other authorities.
Council leader Kim Forward said the financial strategy allowed HBC to move closer to achieving its objectives for the people for the town.
Deputy council leader Colin Fitzgerald told colleagues: “I just want to echo what others have said. It is important to emphasise that the strategy that this policy put in place has served us well,” and he pointed out that the council’s borrowing costs for the year were covered by the income the council was receiving.
Mr Fitzgerald laid the success of the council’s financial strategy at the door of HBC’s officers and the ‘finance department in particular.’
Councillor Andrew Batsford said the council’s finance strategy was, “…well made and well looked after by officers.”
But Mr Batsford believed there was a need to better explain to the public what the council’s objectives were: “To the lay person out in the street our borrowing can look eye-watering. Is it possible to have a list of what the borrowing has been and what it has been used for so that the public understand why we are borrowing and that it is prudent borrowing.”
Finance chief Mr Grace told councillors it would be possible to make a document available for the next full council meeting that would detail council borrowing over the last decade or so.
Cabinet members agreed unanimously that there was no need for any change to the council’s financial strategy and noted that a mid-year financial review has been scheduled to look at the impact the Covid crisis has had on the council’s income and expenditure in the current fiancial year.