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Council leader defends £171million borrowing plan

Slough Borough Council’s plan to borrow £171million to fund its capital programme has been defended by the leader of the council.

The council is aiming to borrow the money over the next four years to help pay for an array of building projects in the borough.

These include a planned £29.6m investment into the council-owned housing company James Elliman Homes to increase housing supply and £20.7m to fund two new hotels at the old library site in the town centre.

A cabinet meeting took place at the council’s new headquarters at 25 Windsor Road on Monday where councillors discussed the proposed budget for 2020/21 and the capital strategy for 2020 to 2024.

Council leader James Swindlehurst told the meeting: “If you look at an asset like this (council headquarters), we borrow at 2-2.5 per cent the money that bought it. It’s risen in value already in the year we’ve owned it from £39m to more than £60m.

“It’s a good purchase, within 15 years we own it outright and the moment we start tenanting the top floor that will effectively be paying the borrowing for us.”

He added: “We don’t undertake that borrowing without a sound business case and without a sense that it’s good for the council in the longer term to accumulate those assets.”

W Cllr Swindlehurst (Lab, Cippenham Green) also revealed that the council is setting aside £5m to build a new youth hub in the town centre within 18 months.

W During the meeting, the council’s service lead for finance, Barry Stratfull, said income from bus lane fines was expected to be ‘much lower’ than expected at the end of the financial year.

He said: “The bus lane enforcement scheme is good news and bad news because obviously drivers have changed their habits.

“Buses are running more on time but it has reduced some of the income.”

A full council meeting will be held on Thursday, February 20 where councillors will decide whether to approve the proposed revenue budget for 2020/21 and the capital strategy for 2020 to 2024.

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