UK Politics

Council assets include fish stall, say Taxpayers' Alliance

Fish stall Image copyright Getty Images

Nightclubs, pigeon lofts and a wet fish stall are among some of the assets owned by UK councils, according to a report by the Taxpayers' Alliance.

Freedom of information requests showed pubs, hotels and golf courses were also on town halls' books, the TPA said.

Chief executive Jonathan Isaby said councils were "hoarding" assets, undermining claims they had no income.

However, a Local Government Association spokesman said the campaign group's report was "misleading".

The spokesman said in "many cases" councils owned the land that facilities are built on rather than the facilities themselves.

Communities and Local Government Secretary Greg Clark said local authorities must ensure taxpayer value for money.

'Drastic rethink'

According to the think tank's report - which it says is based on details gathered from FoI requests - councils across the UK owned at least 580 restaurants or cafes, as of April 2014.

Local authorities' assets also included 378 pubs, 174 hotels, 259 theatres, 2,586 farms and 407 golf courses, it said.

Mr Isaby said it looked "deeply hypocritical" for councils to "plead poverty as an excuse for hiking council tax when they've got such a huge asset portfolio".

He said local authorities should be focused on "essential services".

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Mr Clark said taxpayers "have a right to know"how their money is being spent by councils

"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," Mr Isaby added.

However, a Local Government Association spokesman dismissed the report's findings and said councils "are constantly reviewing their estates" to ensure value for money for local taxpayers.

"This is yet another misleading report from the Taxpayers' Alliance," the spokesman said.

'Value for money'

"Councils are banned from spending the money they make from selling their assets to pay for day-to-day services. Assets fund regeneration, housing and jobs for communities, improve the quality of life for residents and help keep down council tax.

"Many assets were built as part of housing developments and are integral to providing the essential shops and amenities communities rely on. In many cases, councils will own the land facilities are built on and not the facilities themselves."

Communities and Local Government Secretary Greg Clark said local taxpayers "have a right to know, and demand", that their money is being spent carefully and effectively.

"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," he added.