Lichfield District Council has confirmed it could need to borrow money to fund repairs to the Chasewater Dam.
A motion to “borrow in principle” was tabled by Councillor Michael Wilcox, Cabinet Member for Finance, at a meeting earlier this week.
Work is already beginning on draining the reservoir at Chasewater ahead of the repair works.
And with the project likely to cost around £3m, Cllr Wilcox explained that he hoped the Council wouldn’t need to take up the option of borrowing extra finances.
“Councillors agreed the Council can borrow money, if necessary, to fund essential works to Chasewater dam. Having inherited the dam, we are legally bound to carry out the works. However borrowing is something we hope to prevent by working with our regional partners to secure external funding for these works.
“We believe it is wholly unfair that the council and its 40,000 local tax payers should bear the entire cost of the repairs, which could exceed £3million. This is because the council does not benefit financially from the water in the reservoir, which is instead used regionally by British Waterways. The water feeds most of the West Midlands canal network, which is a key part of the region’s economy. It also supports hundreds of businesses region-wide – from canal side cafes and visitor attractions, to top canal side destinations and housing developments.”
But the decision to agree in principle to borrow money caught councillors on the hop, according to Cllr Steve Norman (Lab, Summerfield).
And he has questioned why there is even a need to borrow the money – claiming that the Council’s Conservatives “inherited £38.5million from the Labour Administration in 1999”. He said:
“It was extremely unusual as there was nothing tabled on the night and caught everyone by surprise causing mayhem at the meeting!
“In the end, as I had asked, the Chief Executive got up and gave an explanation for the advice he had clearly been given by officers and there was almost unanimous support for motion to borrow in principle. The resolution means that there would have to be a special meeting of the whole Council before any borrowing could go ahead.
“With most of that £38.5 million gone, a multi storey car park that is crumbling, a dam that needs major repairs and delays in large scale commercial development in both Lichfield and Burntwood because of the global recession, the Tories on Lichfield District Council are now having to look at the possible need to borrow money to balance the budget.”
But Cllr Wilcox claimed the Council finances were still in a healthy state.
“We have kept this year’s council tax increase to just three per cent, which will see an average household paying £2.72 a week for the services we deliver – from their weekly waste and recycling collection, to leisure centres, parks, street cleaning and more.
“We are one of the lowest charging district councils in the country, and charge around £25 less than the national average. The reason we can achieve this is partly because we have invested the money we have wisely, and have a strong property portfolio. This is currently yielding a better return than had we placed the money in a bank and the income helps to support the council’s running costs.”