Wednesday 18 October 2017

Council assets include fish stall

Thanet District Council owns a wet fish stall, the TaxPayers' Alliance has discovered
Thanet District Council owns a wet fish stall, the TaxPayers' Alliance has discovered

Local councils own hotels, nightclubs, pigeon lofts and even a cheese factory, according to a report.

Details gathered by the TaxPayers' Alliance using freedom of information requests show the range of assets held by town halls across the UK.

As of April last year, councils owned at least 580 restaurants or cafes - with Brighton and Hove Council alone possessing 59.

There were also 378 pubs on the books, 174 hotels, 259 theatres, 2,586 farms, and 407 golf courses.

Among the more unusual assets listed were:

:: Dumfries and Galloway Council owned a cheese factory.

:: Thanet District Council owned a wet fish stall.

:: Harlow District Council possessed the 'Seen' nightclub, described as "Essex's most chic and sophisticated clubbing destination".

:: Copeland Borough Council had pigeon lofts and a betting office on its books.

TaxPayers' Alliance chief executive Jonathan Isaby said: "What possible business does a council have owning a nightclub?

"It looks deeply hypocritical for councils to plead poverty as an excuse for hiking Council Tax when they've got such a huge asset portfolio.

"Local authorities should be focussed on essential services. The time has come for a serious discussion on what councils should, and should not, be doing - a drastic rethink which saw many of these assets returned to the private sector where some of them clearly belong would be a dramatic step towards a balanced budget and protecting taxpayers."

Communities and Local Government Secretary Greg Clark said: "Local taxpayers have a right to know, and demand, that every penny of their hard-earned contribution is being carefully spent in the most effective way.

"Councils must keep council tax down and efficiently manage their assets to ensure local taxpayers' money is delivering value for money and the services local people want to see."

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