Council investments worth more than £1m to Babergh and Mid Suffolk

Babergh councillors set their budget during a meeting at Endeavour House in Ipswich. Picture: PAUL G

Babergh councillors set their budget during a meeting at Endeavour House in Ipswich. Picture: PAUL GEATER - Credit: Archant

Property investments by Babergh and Mid Suffolk councils are expected to provide a revenue of £1.1m for the two authorities over the next year.

And it has emerged that the councils’ property management company CIFCO Capital has bought two more premises to provide an investment income – in Harlow, Essex, and on an industrial park in Norwich.

The value of the investments was revealed to Babergh councillors during their budget-setting meeting on Tuesday. The council approved a rise in council tax of 3.25%, which works out at £5 a year for householders with a Band D property.

Peter Patrick, Babergh’s cabinet member for finance, explained how the property deals were helping to fund services.

He said: “Our major property investment vehicle, through which we will borrow to invest, should generate a regular income of approximately £1.1m a year, with other long term investments providing a further £400,000.”

CIFCO Capital’s deals proved controversial after it was revealed that the company had bought the buildings occupied by Marks and Spencer in Brentwood, by Caffe Nero and Wagamama in Peterborough, and a number of car dealerships in Milton Keynes.

Now it has emerged that CIFCO has also bought retail warehouses in Harlow and two units on a Norwich business park.

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That has caused concern among opposition politicians at the two authorities – particularly the Green Party group on Mid Suffolk Council which has said money should be spent closer to home.

Green councillor Rachel Eburne said: “We would like to see the money spent on new housing, to provide a real social benefit for the area.

“At the very least we would like to see it spent on businesses in the area. By investing it so far away, it is hardly a vote of confidence in this part of the world.”

During the debate, Mr Patrick said times were still tough for councils: “It’s no secret that local government is facing a big financial challenge as central government funding is slowly withdrawn. We do need to raise our Council Tax by 3.25%.

“In addition, part of our response to our financial situation is in transforming how we work while continuing to provide excellent services.

“Our move to Endeavour House has enabled a significant change in working practice; the use of IT, both internally and in communicating with our customers, has provided major efficiencies.”

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