Runnymede BC claims that while it has made efficiencies since 2010, it has avoided making any cuts to services as a result of the £160m it has invested in income-generating property. In addition, the council has also invested in new discretionary services, including school buses and meals-on-wheels, and funded the contruction of a new leisure centre.
Runnymede: £160m property investment has avoided cuts
The council’s director of commercial services John Rice told LGC the investments bring in gross annual income of £14m, which provides £5m for the council to spend. Further investments are planned to achieve a £30m gross return and £10m to support expenditure. Mr Rice said the council had invested in property as it was the most “beneficial commercial activity”.
He said it was important that any acquisitions were part of a council’s commercial strategy, which should tie into the council’s overall financial plan.
The council has an in-house team with private sector expertise looking after acquisitions and management of assets. Mr Rice said: “If you don’t have a property team [to actively manage the property] and you’re just purchasing the property, putting the revenue in the bank it sounds wonderful but then further down the line you encounter problems.”
Mr Rice said the council was discerning in choosing where to invest and rejected “29 out of 30” opportunities that it was presented with.