OUTGOING Southend Council leader Nigel Holdcroft launched an impassioned defence of his managing of council finances, delaring the “pier would have probably fallen into the sea” if he hadn’t spent the cash.

The Conservative, who is stepping down in May, delivered a long list of his achievements at a council meeting, while defending its record on borrowing.

He had been accused by Independent group spokesman Martin Terry of storing up problems by borrowing too much.

Westborough ward councillor Mr Terry said: “Current borrowing is forecast to increase to £206million and the cost of this (in interest) is £800,000 per million, per year.”

But Mr Holdcroft disputed the figures – saying they were much lower, with interest amounting to around 1.5per cent of income.

He also accused Mr Terry of not understanding how local government finance worked.

The leader listed a number of things he said couldn’t have been provided without borrowing money.

He said: “If we’d not borrowed and accumulated some of that debt, we wouldn’t have a new Belfairs School, a new building on the end of the pier, a new pier structure – it would probably have fallen into the sea by now.

We wouldn’t have been able to pay to stabilise the Cliffs.”

Mr Holdcroft added: “All our public toilets would be shut because we wouldn’t have done any renovations of them.

“The Cliff lift would be shut.

We would be spending out of our revenue budget on repairing potholes, rather than resurfacing roads.”

He listed other work carried out by the council, including bridge maintenance, the Belfairs swimming pool and a new council ICT system.

He added: “I could go on and on. It’s rather like the Life of Brian: I tell you one thing chief executive, borrowing has done nothing for Southend apart from all those things – and they’re about only the first 5 per cent of the list.”

The council currently has £11.8million in its reserves and £29.3million of reserves earmarked for spending.