Council debt claims denied

CLAIMS by Exmouth's Tories that county finance chiefs have presided over a Devon 'debt mountain' have been dismissed as 'absolute nonsense'.

CLAIMS by Exmouth's Tories that county finance chiefs have presided over a Devon 'debt mountain' have been dismissed as 'absolute nonsense'.Exmouth Conservatives say they are 'deeply concerned' with levels of debt at the Liberal Democrat-run Devon County Council.They cite projections in the Council's Budget Book that show a debt of over �600 million - equivalent of nearly �1,000 for every Devon resident.And they say that each year �30 million is needed to cover just the interest - almost the sum spent on repairing Devon's potholes.Conservative Brixington Councillor David Chapman said: "Many local residents are very concerned about the dangerous state of our roads. "They will be horrified to see that the money being spent on the roads is almost the same as is being spent every year on just paying off the interest on the mountain of County Council debt. "The Liberal Democrat administration...has quite rightly taken a lot of flack over the worsening state of the roads."When you see these financial figures it becomes clear that, somewhere along the line, they got their priorities badly wrong."Conservative Littleham Councillor and prospective county council candidate John Humphreys said: "This is a mountain of debt and the future projections make grim reading. "It is right to invest for the future, but it needs to be done in a sustainable way. The Liberal Democrats have essentially taken out a massive credit card in the name of every Devon resident - and there are deep concerns about this debt in the long term."A spokesman for the County Council said: "The assertion that the county council is poor with money or in the red is absolute nonsense."Devon County Council is consistently praised by the Audit Commission for its prudent use of resources and, for the past 17 years, has brought the county's finances in under budget."The county council is currently responsible for 85 per cent of all public services in Devon, including vital services like schools, roads and the care of the elderly. "We are also responsible for investing in Devon's infrastructure to ensure the economy continues to grow, which can be clearly seen by all to the east of Exeter."Like any business or household, to pay for improvements we have to borrow. The county council does have a �600m programme of capital investment to fund new schools, road schemes, recycling centres and a lot more but, as our accounts clearly show, this is more than offset by our assets, which total more than �1.6 billion.