Thomas Bridge 26 June 2015

Council urged to vote against £10m property ‘gamble’

Council urged to vote against £10m property ‘gamble’ image

A trade union has launched a scathing attack on proposals for a council to spend millions on ‘property speculation’ instead of local services.

Unite today urged Conservative-led Bromley Council to vote against recommendations that would see the town hall spending £10.1m on buying commercial property on top of £74m already earmarked for 2015/16.

The proposal for how Bromley will spend its £11.1m underspend will be debated at the local authority’s full council meeting on Monday 29 June.

Union members said Bromley councillors had got their priorities ‘completely wrong’ and urged them to ditch the ‘helter-skelter’ of privatisation.

The calls follow three waves of strike action at the town hall over the outsourcing of services, withdrawal of facility time for union representatives and cuts to council employee numbers from 4,000 to 300.

Unite regional officer Onay Kasab said: ‘The Tory councillors have got their priorities completely wrong. Bromley residents want any available spare money spent on council services, and not invested in property speculation.

‘We call on the council at its full meeting on Monday to draw back from this unwanted helter-skelter to privatise services left, right and centre – and return to the public service ethos that used to be the bedrock of the council’s activities.

‘Voters expect councillors to provide public services and not gamble their money on the vagaries of property development.’

Council leader, cllr Stephen Carr, said: 'We have always adopted a prudent and sustainable approach to managing the council’s resources. This includes making strategic investments in higher yielding investment property.

'We use capital spend for these investments, which in turn subsidises council services. It is not sustainable to use such capital spend on year-on-year revenue spending. The feedback from residents, including from resident association meetings and as part of our annual budget consultations is they consistently support and expect us to make the best use of our resources and adopt such a long-term approach.

'This should be seen against a background of having to identify a further £40m savings over the next four years from a net budget of around £200m, due to much reduced government funding for local authorities when we are being asked to shoulder additional responsibilities and face increasing demands for services. These investments are a key strand in managing our resources to ensure they provide value for money for Bromley taxpayers and deliver the best outcomes for our residents.'

Sharpening the commercial edge image

Sharpening the commercial edge

The case for well-managed council commercial activity is one that needs to be defended if we want a mature and sustainable local state, argues Jonathan Werran.
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