Revealed: Local councils own 580 restaurants, 378 pubs, 191 shopping centres, 174 hotels... and a cheese factory

June 02, 2015 8:15 AM

  • New research by the TaxPayers' Alliance shows surprising scale of councils' asset portfolios
  • Assets include golf courses, restaurants, hotels, shopping centres, a wet fish stall in Thanet and a cheese factory in Dumfries and Galloway
  • Revelations come as councils continue to complain about size of central government grant and plead poverty as a reason for increasing Council Tax on hard-pressed local residents

New research from the TaxPayers' Alliance today demonstrates that councils up and down the United Kingdom are hoarding assets as diverse as golf courses and a model railway despite the scale of Britain's financial challenge.

Key findings of the research are that, as of April 1st 2014:

  • Local authorities own at least 580 restaurants or cafes, along with 378 pubs. Brighton and Hove City Council own 59 restaurants or cafes, while Birmingham CityCouncil counts 17 pubs in its asset portfolio
  • Councils own 174 hotels, with Bristol City Council and Eastbourne Borough Councilowning 9 each
  • Local authorities own 2,586 farms, 259 theatres, 191 shopping centres and an astounding 7,294 shops
  • Councils own at least 407 golf courses, with Barnet Borough Council alone owning 10

In addition, the research uncovered some remarkable oddities in council asset portfolios, including:

  • Dumfries and Galloway Council own a cheese factory
  • Thanet District Council own a wet fish stall
  • Bristol City Council and Harlow District Council both own nightclubs, with Harlow's'Seen' nightclub described as "Essex's most chic and sophisticated clubbing destination"
  • Bromsgrove District Council own a sawmill
  • Copeland Borough Council own pigeon lofts and a betting office
  • Gravesham Borough Council own a model railway
  • Nottingham City Council own a bingo club
  • Thurrock Borough Council own a bookies and a supermarket

Jonathan Isaby, Chief Executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said:

"What possible business does a council have owning a nightclub? It looks deeply hypocritical for councils to plead poverty as an excuse for hiking Council Tax when they've got such a huge asset portfolio. Local authorities should be focussed on essential services. The time has come for a serious discussion on what councils should, and should not, be doing - a drastic rethink which saw many of these assets returned to the private sector where some of them clearly belong would be a dramatic step towards a balanced budget and protecting taxpayers."
 

Homepage image: Fish Stall at Mevagissey Feast Week via Flickr

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