An investigation has shown every resident in the city paying Band D council tax will see almost 14% of their annual bill next year go directly to pay off the authority’s debts.
That equates to the first 51 days of their yearly council tax payment – a rise from 38 days (10.6%) of the current bill.
Cllr Dave Conway, leader of the City Independents, said: “We seem to be borrowing money like it has gone out of fashion on white elephant projects like the new civic, while services are being slashed left, right and centre.”
The council’s underlying current debt stands at £593 million after it took out a loan of £74 million last year to buyout their council housing stock.
It takes the overall debt to £5,495 per city household*.
The Interest alone on city council loans is over £13 million a year.
The news comes as the council is set to borrow £49 million to pay for their controversial new civic headquarters in Hanley’s Central Business District, as well as £16 million to drill for coal bed methane gas beneath the feet of Potteries residents.
Councillors on the Audit Committee have also been told the share of income used to pay debts is set to rise.
A report presented by Peter Lewis, interim assistant director financial, said the proportion of income paid towards debt “will increase”.
Lilian Dodd, secretary of Dresden Residents Association, said: “All this debt makes me really angry.
“It is our children who are going to suffer and who will end up paying the price for all this borrowing.
“They need to concentrate on protecting services rather than wasting it on a new HQ.”
A spokesman for Stoke-on-Trent City Council said: “The council borrows money, just like householders, in order to secure longer term investments like roads, buildings, compute installations, vehicles, etc.
“We fund the programme of such works from grants secured from other sources, funds received from the sale of other assets and from borrowing.”
Labour council leader Mohammed Pervez defended the borrowing: “Our ambitious capital programme is at the heart of the Mandate for Change driving forward housing-led, education-led, and regeneration-led projects to drive economic growth in the city and help deliver future sustainability to the area.”
Terry Crowe, Cabinet Member for Finance on the City Council, told StaffsLive that their plans were “bold but affordable”.
“We have been very successful in securing funding and will continue to pursue grant funding where it supports our strategic objectives, and lever as much external and private sector funding into the area as possible”, he added.
Listen (below) to StaffsLive’s interview with Pauline Ruscoe, of Longton and former head of procurement on Stoke-on-Trent City Council.
*based on 2011 census data