County council refuses to spend business profits on affordable housing

“Liberal Democrat councillors have criticised Surrey County Council for failing to spend profits from its £298m commercial property portfolio on council services.

In November, the council transferred £3.8m of rental income from the properties into its revolving infrastructure and investment fund.

However, Liberal Democrats complained that the original investment strategy, agreed by the council in July 2013, promised to use income to support the delivery of functions and services.

Cllr Hazel Watson, leader of the Liberal Democrats on Surrey County Council, said: “I am deeply concerned that none of the income derived from the county council’s extensive property investment portfolio so far has been used to support council services.

“This contradicts previous assurances from the Conservative administration that the purpose of their investment strategy was to support the county council’s budget.

“The county council is proposing millions of cuts to services this financial year and it is simply unacceptable for them to use precious resources to purchase more property, when that resource should be used instead to protect services for Surrey residents.”

Responding to the criticism, Tim Oliver, Surrey’s Conservative cabinet member for property and business services, said: “The investment portfolio created under the investment strategy consists of property investments which have been made by the council in order to deliver economic regeneration or to provide for long-term future service use, whilst delivering an investment return.

“These assets provide flexibility in the estate whilst producing a net revenue.”

He said that the total net income delivered to date by the strategy will be used to support spending on council services in the future and was expected to have reached £5.3m by March 2018.”