In case you missed it: cheese factory and pigeon lofts amongst councils’ huge property portfolio

A recent report administered by the Taxpayers’ Alliance, has highlighted some of the bizarre properties that form part of a huge council owned property portfolio. Included is a cheese factory, a wet fish stall and a pigeon loft.

The results, which were gathered using freedom of information requests, also show that the property portfolio owned by councils across the country includes 580 restaurants/cafes, 378 pubs, 174 hotels, 2,586 farms, 259 theatres, 191 shopping centres, 7,294 shops and 407 golf courses.

Bristol City Council is one of two local authorities to own a nightclub, along with Harlow District Council that was found to own a club often described as the most sophisticated clubbing destination in Essex.

Jonathan Isaby, Chief Executive of the Alliance argues:

“What possible business does a council have owning a nightclub…It looks deeply hypocritical for councils to plead poverty as an excuse for hiking Council Tax when they’ve got such a huge asset portfolio. Local authorities should be focussed on essential services”

There are many more councils that own these seemingly random assets, including Hillingdon Borough Council who own a piggery and poultry shed, Newcastle under Lyme Borough Council who own an aviary, and Copeland Borough Council who had pigeon lofts and a betting shop on its books.

The report has led to many local councils attempting to justify their portfolios, with a Local Government Association spokesman saying:

“This is yet another misleading report from the Taxpayers’ Alliance. Councils are banned from spending the money they make from selling their assets to pay for day-to-day services.

The spokesman goes on to say:

“Assets fund regeneration, housing and jobs for communities, improve the quality of life for residents and help keep down council tax…Councils are constantly reviewing their estates to ensure they are getting value for money for local tax payers.”

If councils cannot benefit from disposing of their assets, for the benefit of the local community, then perhaps the rules governing this should be looked at. Certainly, in a time of continued austerity, the release of several hundred million pounds of capital would be a welcome boost to beleaguered council coffers.

12.06.15                                                                          BT/SJ

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