The mayor has signed a deal to give a low interest loan of up to £40,000 of taxpayers’ money to build a community boat.
On November 1, Dave Hodgson, the Mayor of Bedford, signed an executive decision to lend the money to the Bedford and Milton Keynes Waterways Trust at two per cent APR.
The trust claims that the boat would engage young people in learning about the river, get more borough residents outdoors and bring communities together.
But the move has angered some councillors who claim that the decision should not have been made in private, and that in times of austerity the loan is not a good idea.
Councillor Caroline Fensome said: “This goes back to the whole issue of no democracy in the council. There has been no debate.
“The first we ever know of this and it has been done and dusted and I don’t see why the interest is only two per cent.
“As the waterway hasn’t been constructed we don’t need a boat to go along it, it’s not as if there aren’t enough boats on the river.
“We are closing essential services like public loos and now we are funding a boat, it sounds like a midlife crisis to me.”
But Bedford Borough Council’s finance portfolio holder Michael Headley, who is responsible for all monetary decisions at the council, claimed that the boat loan was a sound investment.
He said: “This is a loan, which will be repaid in full with interest. It is a win-win situation. It does not cost the taxpayer a penny, and also provides a good deal for the Bedford and Milton Keynes Waterways Trust and its excellent community project to allow more people to enjoy their river locally. The loan achieves a better return for the taxpayer than putting the money in the bank, while allowing the trust to borrow at a better rate than they otherwise could.”
He added: “We are absolutely committed to openness and transparency, and that’s why people know about this decision, with all details made public. councillors were able to block this decision if they wished.”