Stoke & Staffordshire

Audit Commission advises Stoke council to sell assets

Post Office
Image caption Hanley Post Office was purchased for more than £1m but is now said to be worth 700k

Hundreds of plots of land and buildings owned by Stoke-on-Trent City Council should be sold because they are not generating enough income, according to a spending watchdog.

The authority has 660 properties which they value at more than £42m.

The current income from these investments is around £780,000 - which equates to 2% of their value.

The Audit Commission, which oversees council spending, said this low return means some should be sold.

In comparison, Staffordshire County Council's £11.4m of assets generate nearly 20% of their value annually.

'Bottom of the market'

Councillor Sarah Hill, who is responsible for finance at the city council, is part of a group currently conducting a review of the council's property portfolio.

She said many of properties were small-scale investments - such as garages - and would be sold off.

But Peter Fleming, from the Local Government Association, said it was not necessarily a good time for councils to sell.

"Should you really be selling your assets at the bottom of the market where you're not going to get a good return and then find yourself putting them into a bank where you're getting even less return?"

Some of the properties Stoke-on-Trent City Council has bought have seen a significant drop in value.

Hanley Post Office was bought for just under £1m in 2008 and is now valued at £700,000.

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