Yesterday Government Ministers called Croydon ‘dysfunctional’ after the Labour-controlled council went bust.
Wonder what those same ministers think about Surrey Tory’s little game of Monopoly?
Almost 150 miles and a three-hour drive separate Malvern Shopping Park, Worcestershire and Surrey County Council’s offices in Kingston…
Surrey County Council has 444 million invested in commercial property. Estimated losses in March – before the Pandemic took hold revealed that it had lost 44.65million – and counting!
It is believed that 96 per cent of its portfolio is held in office space in Crawley, Ashstead and Guildford, a sector which has been badly hit-particularly in Crawley the home of Gatwick Airport. One of the biggest reductions in the portfolio is the Malvern Retail Park. Its value has dropped by a staggering £15m and counting, due to the downturn in the retail sector. It has also invested in leisure and cinemas and the Debenhams store in Winchester. The portfolio was generating 11million annually.
It has also invested a rumoured 56m in the Blightwells Yard housing retail and restaurant development in Farnham. The two Tory-controlled councils (Surrey & Waverley) joined up with Crest Nicholson to build the project due for completion next year!
Surrey has come in for a good drubbing from the Taxpayers’ Alliance. An organisation that has been warning councils for years about the dangers posed by their huge reliance on property speculation. Its chief executive John O’Connell called the situation “deeply worrying.”Surrey claimed it had no other option, whilst during the austerity years, Government funding of local authorities countrywide had been well and truly hammered.
Waverley Borough Council took a far more cautious approach to its investment portfolio – instigated by the former Tory-controlled council keeping it close to home – and well-regulated. Though, in Farnham, there has been much criticism of its involvement in the Blightwells scheme.
Since the Rainbow Coalition has held power – it has followed a very cautious line on investments, which at times has been heavily criticised by Waverley’s Tory group which is now in opposition.
In Croydon, a Section 114 order was put in place. This means al council spending is blocked, apart from cash for safeguarding the vulnerable and other legal commitments.