‘City’s assets tee us off’: Council criticised for owning huge assets

Leader of MK Council Pete Marland
Leader of MK Council Pete Marland

MK Council has been slammed over its hike in council tax – when owning huge assets including TWO golf courses, nine farms and a caravan site.

Pressure group TaxPayers’ Alliance this week published research showing the scale of councils’ assets, which put MK Council 12th in the UK for the highest number of shops owned.

It comes just two months after council tax was increased by 1.95 per cent – the maximum amount before a referendum has to be called.

Labour leader Pete Marland has criticised the report, adding that the council’s assets are used for the benefit of the community or because they make a return for the tax payer.

He said: “It shows a worrying lack of understanding of local government finance and the special circumstances of Milton Keynes as a new town.

“Milton Keynes Council has a wide portfolio of assets that covers a broad range of areas such as commercial, retail and land interests, as well as leisure and cultural assets.

“We always look to make sure we are obtaining the best use of our portfolio of assets to benefit council tax payers.”

By law, the council is unable to sell off assets to fund services, but where it can will transfer them to the community for their use.

It also owns 123 shops, 34 car parks, four swimming pools/leisure centres, two theatres, two restaurants and two factories.

Other councils across the country were found to own a bingo club, bookies, wet fish stall and even a cheese factory.

Jonathan Isaby, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “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 focused 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.”