Council builds £1bn property portfolio to sidestep UK austerity | Financial Times

Financial Times 18 February 2019

Judith Evans in Staines-upon-Thames FEBRUARY 17, 2019

 

"Opposite a portrait of Margaret Thatcher in the office of Ian Harvey, Conservative leader of
Spelthorne council, stands a backdrop reading “Spelthorne means business”.

This is a common phrase, but in Spelthorne it can almost be taken literally. The borough council
represents a clutch of leafy towns in south-east England with a population of about 100,000 —
but it has also turned itself into what is in effect a commercial property company with a portfolio
worth almost £1bn.

The local authority in Surrey has pioneered the large-scale use of cheap government-backed
loans to buy real estate to generate rental income to offset austerity-driven cuts in funding.

Other English councils have followed Spelthorne’s example, while critics have questioned the
wisdom of local authorities investing in commercial property, saying it could leave them badly
exposed in market downturns"

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