Concern as Portsmouth takes commercial spending spree to more than £100m

A Mercedes dealership in Eastleigh that forms part of Portsmouth City Council's property portfolio, on which they have now spent more than �100m
A Mercedes dealership in Eastleigh that forms part of Portsmouth City Council's property portfolio, on which they have now spent more than �100m
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PORTSMOUTH City Council has swooped in and bought five more properties in a deal worth more than £55m.

The authority has bolstered its commercial empire by spending £56.5m on business parks in Redditch, Lutterworth, Bilston, Dewsbury and Leeds.

I look around the city, and there are derelict sites throughout which could be developed, that could create jobs and wealth here.

Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, Lib Dem leader

It brings the total spent by the council on property – which it says will generate £6.5m of income through annual rents to help fund services – to £108.3m.

Tory leader, Councillor Donna Jones, said the council ‘had made income generation a top priority.’

But critics continue to question why no money is being pumped into ‘derelict’ sites around the city for the benefit of the local economy.

Former council leader and Lib Dem leader, Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, said: ‘It’s about understanding the value of things.

‘I look around the city, and there are derelict sites throughout which could be developed, that could create jobs and wealth here. The council has got two sorts of responsibility.

‘A responsibility to make money, but it’s got a responsibility to make sure that this city thrives.’

But Cllr Jones said: ‘We have borrowed money cheaply and purchased commercial properties based on whether they will bring money into the council. This profit is new money for the council which can be spent on services that would otherwise be at risk, such as libraries, museums and weekly bin collections.

‘Ninety per cent of this year’s budget savings have been achieved by generating new income and rescheduling debt so by creating income we have mitigated the cuts to council spending.

‘This council is proposing the lowest budget cuts of any city council in the country and we are able to do that because we are being entrepreneurial. That is what we will continue to do to protect the services that are most important to the people of Portsmouth.’

It comes after The News revealed the council used £739,982.09 from its property investment fund – all of which is borrowed from banks – to pay firms which billed for their time helping it buy property.

Ukip councillor Julie Bird backed the principles of the strategy. She said: ‘It won’t be too long before our budget is hit so badly that without additional revenue we won’t be able to deliver the sort of services we do at the moment.’