England

Mortuary, coach, and weights raise cash for councils

Stories about councils having to tighten their belts are rarely out of the news, and seem set to continue for some time, especially with the new financial year looming.

One of the ways of raising cash is to sell off assets, with a number of buildings and patches of land being used to fill the funding gap. What are some of the more unusual assets to go up for sale?

Image copyright Redcar and Cleveland Council
Image caption The former mortuary in Saltburn only fell out of use in the 1960s

'Unusual beach hut'

Shropshire Council recently announced plans to sell its headquarters in Shrewsbury, and in January Northumberland County Council said it would get rid of its "extremely expensive to run" offices in Morpeth.

Elizabeth Hall, a seafront Victorian building in Exmouth, was sold by East Devon District Council to Premier Inn for £1.24m and has now been demolished.

Another seafront building - this time on Teesside - raised an undisclosed sum for Redcar and Cleveland Council.

The former mortuary in Saltburn was described as having the potential to become an unusual beach chalet.

An anonymous bidder purchased the Grade II-listed structure, which dates back to the 1800s, and was used to store bodies until the 1960s.

Image caption The Lord Mayor of Newcastle's coach could soon be on display to the public

Coach cash

Newcastle City Council "reluctantly" sold its Lord Mayor's official coach for £50,000, a year ago.

The coach, made in 1798, was once used regularly for important occasions, and in 1979 carried former Prime Minister Jim Callaghan at the Tyneside Summer Exhibition.

However, it is now only brought out of storage once a year for the Lord Mayor's Garden Party.

The buyer, a local businessman, has pledged to put it on display to the public at the former Military Museum, also previously owned by the council.

Image copyright Bonhams
Image caption The weights and measures have become obsolete over time

A bushel and a peck

Some sales bring massive amounts into the council coffers, such as Croydon's auction of antique Chinese ceramics.

The council said some of the £8m would go towards redeveloping Fairfield Halls, a 50-year-old arts centre.

Others historical assets include a collection of antique weights and measures, discovered in the attic of a council building in Carlisle.

The 19th and 20th Century brass and bronze bushels, pecks, drams and yard sticks were last used more than half a century ago.

They were put up for auction by Cumbria County Council, which hoped to attract interest from collectors, museums or people "attracted by the decorative and display potential"

In the event, the 60 lots were auctioned for more than £63,000 - double the amount expected.

Image copyright BBC news online
Image caption The Bigg Market toilets were touted as a potential bar, takeaway or art gallery

Failed sales

However, not all sales are successful.

Underground public toilets in Newcastle city centre were put on the market in August 2012.

Hopes that they would be snapped up and turned into an unusual night-time venue failed to materialise and so far they remain unsold.

And an attempt by Preston City Council to raise £22,000 by selling the mayoral personalised number plate via eBay fell through after it did not attract a single bid.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites