Shropshire Council is planning to build and sell houses to make money as part of its efforts to tackle a financial black hole.
The council is suggesting the measure as one way of dealing with its financial deficit and says that the purchase of Shrewsbury’s shopping centres will also provide an income of £2.7 million in the next financial year.
Other projects the authority hope will raise money include the redevelopment of Shirehall as a ‘public sector hub’, the development of health centres and community hubs, and buying and developing commercial property.
The council also wants to sell its services to external clients, and look at new services it could provide.
These include a new library services initiative called “Fab Reads”, charging for the time of building control team staff, and fees for tree preservation orders.
The proposals will be discussed at Thursday’s Audit Committee meeting.
The move to build and sell houses has been welcomed by the council’s Labour leader Alan Mosley, who described the plan as a “far better” investment than the shopping centres.
He said: “It’s good to see that they’re looking at investing in housing, particularly the rental section, which would be a far better investment than the shopping centres in terms of social value.”
But he criticised proposals to sell some of the council’s services as a risk.
“Shropshire Council is desperate to try and fill the massive black hole in its finances and seeking additional income for services is one way,” Councillor Mosley added.
“However, as has been acknowledged in the financial strategy, there are massive risks in relying on income to fund future service needs.
“This is no way in which councils should be financing the provision of vital and critical resources for residents.”
The council’s commercial strategy, approved by cabinet in March 2017, intends to invest in schemes and projects which can deliver £10m to £15m of new revenue income over a period of five to 10 years with returns of investment exceeding 10 per cent.
A spokeswoman for Shropshire Council said: “As government funding dwindles, choosing where to make savings is getting more and more difficult, especially as demand on the services we provide for our most vulnerable residents increases.
“Our financial strategy sets out a number of savings we propose to make over the next five years in order to balance our (revenue) budget.
“A key part of this is raising income.
“We are continuing to review all of the services we deliver (over 150, across the county) to explore whether they can sell their existing services to external clients and identify any new ones they can provide.”
Source: Shropshire Star