Councils number plates 'worth thousands'

Local authorities across the East of England own car number plates worth up to £1m, an investigation by BBC East Inside Out has discovered.

As councils across the UK examine how best to make savings, the question is should they sell up?

Personalised number plates are often thought to be the preserve of the rich, but an investigation by the programme found valuable plates owned by a number of authorities in the region.

This is a legacy of the days when local authorities were responsible for issuing car licence plates for vehicles in their area.

The number plate F1 became the very first one in Essex in 1904.

But the most valuable is thought to belong to Northampton Borough Council.

NH1 'worth £400,000'

NH1 is worth an estimated £400,000, but Council leader Brian Markham said the authority did not want to sell.

He said: "If we got £400,000 - that's equivalent to £4 off the average council tax bill for a whole year for the council taxpayers of Northampton.

"But that is only one year - next year you can't sell the number plate again.

"More importantly, that number plate is part of our heritage - not just for the council but for the town - we've owned that since the first number plates on cars."

Southend Council in Essex, Peterborough Council and King's Lynn in Norfolk also have money tied up in number plates.

However, one council has sold up. Essex sold F1 to a private buyer for £375,000 and used the money to pay for advanced driving training for young people.

But the F1 plate is now believed to be worth around £5m and is said to be one of the most valuable number plates in the world.

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