COUNCIL bosses' level of borrowing has been criticised as “dubious” and “worrying”.

Liberal Democrat leader Cllr Julian Newgrosh expressed concerns about the borough's asset investment strategy at a full council meeting.

In 2019, the council, advised by investment firm CBRE, ploughed £153 million into various property loans and purchase deals, supported by government loan borrowing.

Cllr Newgrosh unsuccessfully called for members to reject the Labour administration’s calls to extend their borrowing facility from £400 million to £500 million as part of the same strategy.

Council leader Cllr Andrew Western said the comments showed a “concerning lack of understanding” about the strategy – which he argued prevents service cuts.

Since 2017, the authority has borrowed £194 million to pay for property investments, which it says raised £2.6 million for front-line services by October 2019. But then the Government doubled its interest rate on all such loans overnight.

Coun Newgrosh, said this effectively wiped £0.5 million from the council’s coffers in just 24 hours and added: "The council has borrowed a worrying amout of money. The Liberal Democrats have not been represented on the investment board since January 2018. There is dubious quality of investment [in commercial property]. Commercial rents have been in freefall since 2018 and now we are tied to that freefall.

“I question the quality of advice [the council is receiving from CBRE].

CBRE declined to comment.