Norwich City Council is spending nearly £14m on three properties - but won’t reveal which ones
- Credit: EDP pics © 2007
Millions of pounds of taxpayers' money is being used by Norwich City Council to buy three commercial properties - but City Hall says it cannot reveal what is being bought.
But council leaders defended the latest spend, saying the authority has always bought commercial properties and, amid dwindling money from central government, they provide a crucial income stream to protect services.
The council has recently spent £2.4m on a property for leisure use and has bid for two more - one at £7.2m and one at £4m.
However, it says it cannot yet provide details on what those properties are, citing commercial confidentiality.
Martin Schmierer, leader of the Green group on Norwich City Council, expressed concern the council does not have the necessary expertise to become an asset management company and is in danger of losing sight of the council's social function.
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But Mike Stonard, Labour's cabinet member for sustainable and inclusive growth, said the council needed to invest to help protect frontline services.
He said: 'We invest in suitable and prudent commercial opportunities in Norwich whenever we can – this is why we have a local portfolio of some 290 or so properties for income purposes. These collectively bring in an annual rental income of £2.4m.
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'We've been put in a position that local councils should never have found themselves in because of year on year dwindling central government funding.
'This has seen us seek commercial opportunities wherever they present themselves. We have taken these steps to protect frontline services for our residents and we will continue to do that.
'Sadly, this is the face of austerity. We can't and shouldn't sit by quietly when the essential services we provide to our residents come under constant attack through lack of central government funding.
'We are here to protect the interests of our residents so we're being proactive about adopting a commercial stance by taking professional advice about ways to invest in income generating opportunities.'
At a meeting last week, the full council voted to increase the budget for purchasing properties by £10m - so a total of £25m can be spent in 2017/18.