A study of local authority assets has revealed Northampton Borough Council owns among the most pubs, restaurants and theatres of any other council in the UK.
Right-wing campaign group the TaxPayers’ Alliance has unveiled the findings of a widescale Freedom of information request, in which it asked councils across the UK to release full details of their assets portfolio.
The lobbyists says the ‘revelations’ come as authorities across the country “continue to complain about size of central government grant” they receive and “plead poverty as a reason for increasing Council Tax on hard-pressed local residents”.
Northampton Borough Council ranked in the top 20 authorities in the UK in three categories – for owning the most pubs, the most cafe’s and restaurants, and the most theatres.
In total, the council has six pubs, seven cafes and restaurants and four theatres.
Chief executive of the Taxpayer’s Alliance, Jonathan Isaby, 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 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.”
Among the more unusual assets owned by authorities across the UK, Barnet Borough Council owns 10 golf courses; Brighton and Hove City Council owns a total of 59 restaurants and cafes and Bristol City Council and Harlow District Council both own a nightclub.
But Northampton Borough Council’s cabinet member for finance, Mike Hallam, said owning assets in the hospitality industry can be a way of generating revenue for a local authority.
He said: “The council owns a range of properties across Northampton.
“We regularly review our property portfolio to see how we can deliver value for money, maximise our income or support the growth of our town.
“All of our property is looked at individually.
“In some instances the best option is to lease a property to ensure the council receives regular income over a number of years.
“However we also identify buildings or land we could sell which would create income for the Council or help to unlock an investment opportunity.”