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Council purchase of £89million complex could be among most expensive investments by local authorities

Southwark Council’s purchase of an £89 million commercial complex last month is likely to put it among the most expensive by local authorities, when compared to the most recent available data.

As the News reported last week, the council confirmed it had purchased Courage Yard, a commercial in Shad Thames at a meeting in December. The site had been on the market for £89million.

Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the Bureau of Investigative Journalists revealed the investments in commercial property by English local authorities from 2014-15 to 2018-19.

The most expensive recorded investment was an eye-watering £360 million for a former BP site by Spelthorne Borough Council in Surrey.

Yet the tenth most expensive investment – by Bournemouth Council for a retail park worth £46.9million – is nearly half the market value of Courage Yard.

The stats mean that Southwark Council’s purchase is likely to be among the most expensive by a local authority.

However, the amount that Southwark Council invested in commercial property over the same period is not yet available.

Other local authorities may have also obtained more expensive assets in a period the data does not cover or may not have responded to an FOI request.

READ MORE: Council buys £89million complex by Tower Bridge to fund front-line services

At a meeting on Friday with opposition Liberal Democrat councillors, council officers said that the investment, signed off at a Cabinet meeting on December 11, was a sensible one.

The council expects the investment to net £5million a year in rental income, which it said would go towards funding frontline services.

The purchase was funded by recycled capital receipts, internal borrowing and external borrowing from the Public Works Loans Board, the council said.

Speaking last week, Cllr Victoria Mills, cabinet member for Finance, Performance and Brexit, said: “Income we receive from our commercial property portfolio is essential to help support our highly valued public services in this time of decreasing government funding.”

However, Cllr Anood Al-Samerai, leader of the opposition Lib Dems, said they would be pushing the council to “properly involve” residents in any future plans for the site, adding ward councillors were concerned by a lack of consultation before the purchase.


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