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  1. Published on: 22/05/2020 10:57 AMReported by: roving-eye
    The Government is set to ban local Councils from plunging their council taxpayers deep in debt buying up shopping centres like the New Strand in Bootle. A near-£7-billion council spending spree over the past three years has left local communities massively exposed to the struggling commercial real estate market just as the sector faces a severe downturn. Sefton's bite of the cherry, Bootle New Strand shopping centre cost over £35 million.

    But Sefton Council is not alone in the boat with having gone overboard with shopping centre purchases. Dozens of councils are now being put under the microscope after tapping low-cost loans from central government to buy investment properties for rental income as a 'wheeze'. A 'wheeze' which they one thought might shield themselves from government budget cuts.


    Ignoring those who urged caution because retail property was already struggling under the rise of internet shopping, councils poured £6.6 billion into buying up commercial property between 2017 and 2019. They decided to speculate. Now there is a further crisis as many retailers are refusing to pay their full rent under the coronavirus lockdown.

    Will COVID-19 light the fuse on a debt bomb? Chancellor Rishi Sunak said in the Budget that councils tapping cheap government loans to finance speculative property deals would have to be reviewed. The Treasury now says that the government wanted councils to end this practice: “Local authorities should invest public money in regeneration, housing and delivering services, not in speculative commercial investments which can put local and national taxpayers at risk.”

    The National Audit Office warned in February, before the COVID issue began to impact, that this gambling practice had left councils exposed “in the event of an economic recession or a downturn in a particular economic sector.” Total external debt held by councils increased by £14.3 billion between March 2016 and March 2019 alone.
     

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  4. local says:22/05/2020 05:53 PM
    Yes it was with great amusement that some tried to convince mainly themselves that it was a good idea to buy Bootle New Strand.

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  6. mike1979 says:22/05/2020 11:17 PM
    Quote Originally Posted by local View Post
    Yes it was with great amusement that some tried to convince mainly themselves that it was a good idea to buy Bootle New Strand.
    The council shouldn't have sold it in the first place !

  7. Likes onehorsetown2 liked this post
  8. onehorsetown2 says:24/05/2020 09:13 PM
    Quote Originally Posted by local View Post
    Yes it was with great amusement that some tried to convince mainly themselves that it was a good idea to buy Bootle New Strand.
    They have been making a profit since they bought it and as a result causing a reduction in Council Tax

  9. Likes donkey22 liked this post

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