UK councils £97.8bn in debt – how much does your local authority owe?
The amount of debt owed by each council can be revealed today with residents facing an ‘extreme and long-lasting’ impact on services, it has been warned.
The high levels of local authority debt paints a grim picture, showing UK councils owe a combined £97.8bn to lenders, equivalent to £1,141 per resident, as of September 2023.
Taking into account all types of local authorities, such as police and crime commissioners and combined authorities, the debt pile rises to £122bn.
However, three councils in Lincolnshire have refuted the findings, saying they are in far ruder financial health.
Figures collated by the BBC’s Shared Data Unit, using analysis of data by the Department for Levelling Up, states how much each authority across Lincolnshire, plus the surrounding areas, owes.
City of Lincoln Council comes in 171st on the list, compiled in order of debt per resident.
The authority owes £107,353,000, which equates to £1,049 per person.
North Kesteven is 212th on the list, owing £84,602,000, or £734 per person.
In South Holland the debt equates to £706 per person, from a debt of £67,456,000.
SHDC came 220th on the list of 387 authorities.
Lincolnshire County Council comes 245th with a total debt of £460,091,000.
That works out at £598 per person.
South Kesteven were placed 248th, owing £84,602,000, which equated to £588 per person.
The debt in Boston Borough works out at £232 per resident.
BBC’s debt totals £16,449,000 and the authority is ranked 302nd.
In 311th spot is West Lindsey.
The authority owes £16,500,000 – £173 per person.
East Lindsey, which owes £20,000,000 which may be more than neighbouring West Lindsey, but equates to £140 per person.
It sits 316th in the list.
Nearby Rutland is 258th on the list, owing £21,386,000 (£517 per person) while Peterborough City Council is 86th on the list, owing £390,459,000 (£1,805 per person)).
Newark and Sherwood is 213th on the list, owing £89,755,000 (£727 per person) while Nottinghamshire County Council is in 249th spot owing (£481,417,000 (£583 per person).
The South & East Lincolnshire Council’s Partnership – which includes South Holland District Council, East Lindsey District Council and Boston Borough Council – says the figure for East Lindsey is now 0 and Boston is £1m.
It added that South Holland’s debt comes from the Housing Revenue Account and does not impact tax payers:
Coun Paul Redgate, portfolio holder for finance at South Holland District Council, said: “The figure quoted in the report is incorrect.
“The £67,456,000 is debt from the Housing Revenue Account not the council’s general fund.
“By its very nature, the Housing Revenue Account is self-contained and does not impact the taxpayer.
“South Holland District Council does not have any debt in its general fund.”
Coun Sandeep Ghosh, portfolio holder for finance at Boston Borough Council, said: “As of October 9, 2023, Boston Borough Council has reduced its borrowing to £1m in its general fund.
“The decision was made to pay off the majority of the public works loan board early at a substantial discount when the market conditions presented the opportunity to do so.
“The original borrowing was £16,449,000 and due to the substantial discount offered to pay off early, I am pleased to say we now have £1m left in debt.
“Whenever the council borrows money, the finance team keeps a close eye on the market conditions and if there is an opportunity to pay off early at a discount and we have the money in reserves to do so, it makes good business sense for us as a Council to do that.”
Coun Richard Fry, portfolio holder for finance at East Lindsey District Council, said: “As of October 9, 2023, East Lindsey District Council has no debt in its general fund.
“The decision was made to pay off the public works loan board early at a substantial discount when the market conditions presented the opportunity to do so.
“The original borrowing was £20m and due to the discount offered to pay off early, we actually paid back £11m and I am pleased to say we are now debt free.”
Across the UK the contrast in authorities is stark.
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Top of the list is Woking council in Surrey. It owes £1,948,583,000, which works out at £18,756 per resident.
Thirty-seven authorities are in the black while North Hertfordshire is the council with the lowest level of debt.
It owes £357,000 – just £3 per person.
The Public Accounts Committee has warned that these figures will see residents face an ‘extreme and long-lasting’ impact on local services, while Dame Meg Hillier, the committee's chair, said some examples of debt were ‘staggering’.