Southend set to invest £23m in commercial property

Southend-on-Sea Borough Council has revealed plans to invest almost £23.5m in commercial property over the next few years to help protect frontline services.

The Essex council’s cabinet are due to meet on 17 January to discuss its draft budget for 2019/20 and a draft capital investment programme from 2019 to 2024.

The draft capital investment programme includes a commitment to invest £23.47m in commercial property, subject to a viable business case being produced and approved.

According to the report, the investments will help ‘secure and maintain long-term growing income streams and capital appreciation’.

‘Such investments will be part of the council’s wider strategy, for example economic development and growth,’ the report adds.

The draft budget also includes commitments to invest £18m in Southend Pier, £26.3m into improving roads and pavements and £1.2m for parks and open spaces.

‘As government grants continue to reduce, we are having to be more commercially minded and that includes considering investment in commercial property to bring long–term sustainable income streams to the council to help support frontline services,’ said deputy leader, Cllr James Courtenay.

‘The council has made a small number of commercial property acquisitions in recent years and remains open minded to further acquisitions if they are right, in the interests of the town and offer value for money,’ added the deputy leader.

‘However, we are not aggressively seeking them and opportunities are considered on an individual basis with careful thought being given to all aspects of the prospective investment.’

In December, local government secretary James Brokenshire hinted the Government may intervene if councils continue to borrow significant amounts of money to buy commercial properties.

‘I share the concerns of CIPFA (the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy) and others about the risks that these local authorities are exposing themselves and local taxpayers to,’ Mr Brokenshire told MPs.

In November, West Sussex County Council bought an office block for £11.25m in Crawley to secure ‘new, long-term funding sources for the services it provides to its residents.’

Photo credit – pixabay

Jamie Hailstone
Senior reporter - NewStart


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