Town halls add up prized assets

Blackpool Council owns around 1,200 commercial premises including the Tower.
Blackpool Council owns around 1,200 commercial premises including the Tower.
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FROM ice cream cabins to listed buildings – councils on the Fylde are being told to publish a list of their assets so residents know where savings could be made.

Communities secretary Eric Pickles is urging civic chiefs to take a “good hard look” at their portfolios to see if they could protect frontline services by selling off land and buildings.

Communities secretary Eric Pickles

Communities secretary Eric Pickles

Blackpool Council owns around 1,200 commercial premises including the Tower and Winter Gardens, which were bought in 2010.

Council leader Coun Simon Blackburn said: “As a council we own more than 5,000 residential properties and an additional 1,200 commercial premises that range in size from the town hall to an ice cream cabin in Stanley Park.

“We have a duty to achieve the best value for money for Blackpool residents. Our portfolio is assessed on a regular basis and we do sell properties if they aren’t achieving the return that we expect.”

In 2004, the council sold the airport for £13m and later used some of the cash to fund highways improvements.

Conservative group leader Coun Peter Evans warned against selling off assets unless it was absolutely necessary.

He said: “It’s a last resort and we should find other ways of raising money, like finding it from making savings on overheads. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. Maybe there is the possibility of leasing buildings, or hiring out some of our heritage, to draw in income.”

Fylde Council currently has a number of properties up for sale including public offices on Clifton Drive in St Annes, and depots in St David’s Road North, St Annes and in Wesham. The cash raised will be invested in the town hall.

Its assets include St Annes Pool, with the latter now leased to the YMCA as part of a deal which saves £176,000 a year.

A spokesman said: “We are always reviewing the assets we own. We believe in making our assets work as hard as possible for the people of Fylde.”

Wyre Council says it is adopting a system to allow it to map all its assets digitally.

A spokesman said: “Wyre Council has a wide range of assets, predominantly buildings and land.”

And Gill Kilpatrick, county treasurer at Lancashire County Council, said: “We don’t own any golf courses, cinemas, hotels, stadiums or other assets of this type. The only assets we own are those directly connected to our services, or ones acquired as part of projects such as major road schemes.

“The county council has introduced a wide range of measures to reduce costs, while continuing to maintain local services. This includes disposing of properties that are no longer needed by the county council, which has reduced the number of assets we hold overall.”

Mr Pickles said: “I want the public sector to take a good hard look at what they own.

“By cataloguing each and every asset, councils can help Government find innovative new ways to utilise them, improve local services, keep council running costs down and save taxpayers’ money.”