We here at the Waverley Web have been ranting on for over a year about the risky property ventures embarked upon by our local authorities. Others are now condemning the use of public money- our money – some of which is heading for an investment in the borough of Waverley that the private sector wouldn’t touch!
This is a comment from one of our followers:
Why is SurreyCounty Council so shy of informing the people who pay them and their elected representatives about the investments they make on our behalf? Can they be trusted to manage our money sensibly?
Well, it doesn’t look like they know how to when it comes to funding Farnham’s Brightwells Scheme and all the city experts have refused to touch it over the last many years. How can our County Council be stopped? Can councillors of all parties be persuaded to rise up in protest? Surely councillors could be vulnerable to surcharge if it all goes wrong and council tax payers money is lost? This is an absolute scandal!
With over £50m of the taxpayers’ money earmarked, and on its way, to fund part of Farnham’s Blightwells East Street Development, the county’s Lib Dems have put a marker in the ever shifting sands by condemning the county council’s strategy and the way in which decisions are now being made!
Cllr Hazel Watson, Leader of the Liberal Democrats on Surrey County Council, said today:
“This money is public money and it has to be used carefully and responsibly for the benefit of Surrey residents. I am deeply concerned that the current return on the county council’s investment portfolio of commercial properties, worth £223m, is actually only £1.8m – a return of less than one percent. Despite this, the Conservative administration at County Hall plans to dramatically increase its commercial property empire around the UK so that by 2020/21 it will be worth between £0.5bn and £1bn, with an annual return of £10m which is a return rate of between one percent and two percent.
“Furthermore, the Conservative administration wants to take these important decisions in secret and to remove the opportunity for scrutiny before individual decisions are taken to buy commercial properties worth millions of pounds. This is akin to gambling with public money, and exposes the county council to an unacceptable level of financial risk.
“The original principles behind the strategy were to approve “Investments that have the potential to support economic growth in the county of Surrey”. However the reality has been quite different to date, with over £148m worth of commercial properties outside Surrey purchased by the council’s wholly-owned property company Halsey Garton between November 2015 and December 2016. The large sums of money involved and the level of risk require more, not less, scrutiny to safeguard public money. The county council should be focussing on becoming more efficient and providing better services to Surrey residents, rather than acting like a property investment company in the private sector.”
A list of commercial properties purchased by the County Council can be found here:property-list
The new investment strategy can be found here: