Mark Whitehead 15 January 2019

Essex council to invest £20m in commercial property

Southend-on-Sea Council is set to invest £20m in commercial property in a bid to replace cuts in central government funding.

It says income from commercial property will be reinvested to prevent bigger rises in council tax and cuts to jobs and services.

The draft budget being put to the Tory-controlled council next month includes £18m to renovate the seaside town's pier and £26.3m to improve roads and pavements.

The investment plan follows a warning by financial experts CIPFA against local authorities exposing public funds to 'unnecessary or unquantified risk.'

Last year the Government warned it would take steps to prevent 'excessive commercialisation' which has led to councils spending £4.1bn on commercial property in the last four years, although local government minister Rishi Sunak recently denied this amounted to a crackdown.

Southend council leader, John Lamb, said: 'We are not going to make a fly-by-night decision on the investments.

'This is done carefully to see if it worth investing and whether we will get a return, whether it makes sense and how the market is.

'If the Government doesn’t want us to make these investments so we can secure our services then they must stump up the money to make sure we can do it through them.'

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