Councils losing enthusiasm for commercial land and property acquisition

“The recent boom in council spending on land and buildings slowed last year, indicating that the craze for borrowing to invest in commercial property may be reaching its peak.

The government last week released final capital spending and receipts outturn figures for 2018/19.

The data showed spending in the “acquisition of land and existing buildings” category rising 8% to £4.4bn during the year.

However, this is a much smaller rise than recent years – spending in the category quadrupled from just over a billion pounds in 2014/15 to £4.1bn last year.

It is impossible to say how much of the spending in the category relates to commercial property.

However, when the provisional outturn data were released earlier this year, a source told Room151: “It is difficult to get figures that prove it, but the latest set of data seem to indicate a rise in commercial property investment by councils.

You just can’t prove it definitively.”

Speaking this week, Richard Harbord, former chief executive of Boston Borough Council, said: “I think it shows that it is levelling off.

“There are fewer opportunities and many authorities are prudently going as far as they are going to go on this.

“But also it is the continuing of austerity and the fact that as capital schemes which often take years to complete finish, councils are not replacing them with new schemes to assist the revenue effect.” …”

Rise in council spending on land and buildings slows