The Government has released figures on the level of debt and the resulting interest bill for each local authority. The total spending on debt interest comes to £3.043 billion a year.
For many councils this is a huge item of spending, yet one where little effort has been made to reduce it. Routinely, high debt is combined with a long list of surplus or under-used assets.
Hull City Council has just increased the Council Tax by 1.95%. The council has debts of £454 million costing £8 million in interest payments.
It owns 670 works of art but the council doesn't know how much they are worth.
The response to my FOI request was:
The art collection has not been separately valued and is not separately insured. It comes under the general insurance for the Museum collections.
How many of these works of art are on display?
The Borough does not have a separate permanent art gallery so few of the works are on permanent display (four currently at the Museum and a small number within the Guildhall) but there are temporary displays of material from the collection at regular intervals.
The council's assets register includes a wine bar, a restaurant and croquet club. All the usual caretakers houses, car parks, garages, hundreds of buildings and pieces of land of which many are doubtless not fully used at present.
Nottingham City Council sits on a £817 million mountain of debt and spends £30 million a year on interest. They have also put up their Council Tax by 1.95%. They own £16 million of art works most of which are not displayed.
They haven't yet sent me their assets register (which I requested via FOI on February 19th.) But then transparency isn't their strong point.
Other councils with big interest bills include:
- Devon £27 million
- Dudley £28 million
- Ealing £28 million
- Gatehead £28 million
- Kirklees £28 million
- Lincolnshire £30 million
- Lambeth £31 million
- Newcastle £34 million
- Norfolk £34 million
- Cornwall £38 million,
- Southwark £40 million
- Sheffield £42 million
- Newham £61 million
- Kent £64 million
- Leeds £66 million
- Hackney £88 million
- Birmingham £104 million
- Greater London Authority £468 million
These are huge annual bills and represent a great burden on Council Taxpayers.