UK

Local council defends its investments

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The Ipswich council has defended its multi-million pound investment in commercial property

Despite the government expressing fears about council spending, Ipswich council has defended its multi-million pound investment in commercial property in the town. Ipswich borough leader David Ellesmere has insisted that the authority is right in spending millions of pounds on commercial property and termed the investment safe.

Earlier, Secretary of State for Local Government Sajid Javid said that his department had fears about the level of borrowing that had been built up by some councils to buy property to provide them with a rental income. Although, guidelines from his department said that councils must take care to avoid undue risk when making investments, they did not stop them from spending money in this way.

It has been revealed earlier that the council was spending millions of pounds secretly on commercial investments across the country. It was reported a few weeks back that the council had borrowed £56m for property investments, including £42m to buy the Anglia Retail Park on the edge of town.

Ellesmere said that the council has taken great care with its investments. The investments are nowhere near as large as some of those which have caused concern in Westminster. He further said that the council makes sure that it does not put all the eggs in one basket as the council has invested in a retail park, centre retail sites, a new office block and a distribution centre. He pointed out that Ipswich Borough Assets, the council company which owns the properties, is the owner of Portman House, publisher of the EADT and Ipswich Star. The property investment in Ipswich will pay for the council’s waste collection and sports services for a year.

Opposition Conservative leader Ian Fisher said he understood why the council had invested money in property, but he was concerned about the secretive way the deals had been done. It had set up a council-owned company, Ipswich Borough Assets, which had no opposition councillors on its board.

Fisher said that the first they knew about the plans to buy the Anglia Retail Park was when the deal was done and there was no opportunity to raise concerns before it was too late. He added that they need to be able to scrutinise and make concerns heard before it is too late to actually influence what is happening when such huge amounts of money are being committed.

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