Shropshire Council Buys Shopping Centres for £60m. Good idea?

Julian Dean

[Transcript of Julian's video log posted on Thursday 18 January 2018.]

"... the centre of Shrewsbury. I voted against this in December and I want to explain why.

"On the face of it there's some positives. Having democratic control over the centre of town seems to me to be quite a good thing. However, there are some major concerns. Basically, is this financially reckless and is this the right direction for a council to be going in.

"So, on the first issue there's obviously a huge question mark over the future of shopping and shopping centres in general. We have to ask why this was up for sale in the first place; why has the Riverside remained a fairly sad shopping centre for quite a long time; why are there so many empty shops. So is it a sensible decision in those terms.

"Shropshire Council does not have a great history in terms of big commercial enterprises. The IP&E was a disaster several years ago, so there's some question over whether this is somewhat reckless. But there's also a question over the general direction of travel.

"The Council is very keen to get more and more commercialised in its activity. Perhaps they're modelling themselves on Speltthorn Borough Council which recently spent £360m buying the BP headquarters in its area, it's in Surrey and then leasing it back to BP. This has, as the Financial Times put it, put Speltthorn into a property company with a sideline in providing local government services. That's the direction of travel right now that I'm concerned about, because the result is that you have a local authority leadership which is more interested in commercial activity than actually providing services and will only really provide services where it can find cheapest outsourcing ways of doing it possible.

"There's an alternative. The alternative if you've got large amounts of money to invest is to invest it in properly socially useful activity, like social housing. There's models out there. Locally, we have community land trusts such as in Bishop's Castle. In Leeds there's a community land trust looking to build 1,000 affordable homes and they'll remain affordable because they'll remain in the hands of the community land trust. In Shrewsbury we have the Barracks site which could have been bought and which could be a site for some socially useful investment. So that would be my alternative. If there's money to be spent and they're looking for a commercial return, let's do it in something that is genuinely socially useful.

"That was 2 minutes 90. Thank you."

Julian's Video Log

 

Shropshire Council buys shopping centres for £60m. Good idea?

Posted by The Porthill Green on Thursday, 18 January 2018

Twitter @ShrewsburyGreen