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Barking and Dagenham Council defends borrowing millions for regeneration

PUBLISHED: 07:00 18 July 2016 | UPDATED: 11:54 18 July 2016

Ambition 2020 will go ahead

Ambition 2020 will go ahead

Archant

The council has defended plans to borrow tens of millions of pounds for investment and regeneration.

At a cabinet meeting in Barking Town Hall, members agreed to note a finance report that included a pledge to borrow the majority of a £100million fund as part of the Ambition 2020 strategy.

Cllr Dominic Twomey, cabinet member for finance, growth and investment, explained when asked about the cash that it was intended to give the council a measure of control.

“We know this borough’s growing,” he said during Wednesday last week’s meeting.

“Land values and property values are rising – it’s important we buy into sites so we have a say over future development.”

He added: “As a council we are fundamentally part of bringing regeneration to this part of the world.

“We don’t want private investors and companies taking everything – we are best placed in making investments in property and land.”

Cllr Rocky Gill asked if the council would continue to “borrow and borrow and borrow” as the previous Labour government did.

In response Cllr Twomey said it was “prudent” to borrow the money now while it was cheap.

“We have to make the decision to borrow when we have low interest rates,” he said.

Total borrowing by the council is now £444.912m.

There was uncertainty, meanwhile, about a chunk of the £150m loan the council agreed with the European Investment Bank.

Cllr Twomey said conversations were “less positive” with the bank after Britain’s vote to leave the European Union on June 23.

“We may not get the money,” he said. “It’s not set in stone.”

The cash – £61m – was earmarked as funding for the regeneration of among 21 sites in the borough.

Cllr Twomey added there had been contact “quite quickly” after the EU vote but discussions go on.

The leader of the council also spoke about the impact of a British exit on the borough.

“It’s brought uncertainty to people who wish to invest,” Cllr Darren Rodwell said.

“We have worked hard talking to the people who had already committed investment.”

He added that “most”, but “not all”, were reassured – and said some projects would “struggle”.

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