Eric Pickles, as part of the drive to make government more transparent, has created a website where we can identify assets in public ownership. I was shocked to learn that Bristol City Council owns a property investment portfolio worth £204m, generating about £12m of income per year, on top of the assets you would expect the city to own, such as schools and libraries. This investment portfolio includes pubs, shops and nightclubs.
A city council spokesman being interviewed by thisisbristol.co.uk said that the council reviews the portfolio annually and disposes of underperforming assets and at present the income generated from renting properties gives a better return than if the assets were disposed of and the proceeds were invested. I didn't realise that my council tax funded an investment portfolio. Whilst I agree we shouldn't rush to sell assets at the bottom of the market like the previous Prime Minister did with our gold, I really don't think that it is right and proper that money left over from council tax receipts is invested. This is not their money; it is ours and we should choose to spend it how we wish.
If there are council tax receipts left over then next years council tax should be lowered not invested to make a return, it is up to us to invest our money, not a bureaucrat in the Council House. I further assume that we are employing council officers to oversee this property portfolio. There needs to be a commitment by the corporation to dispose of these assets - maybe not now, but certainly as the market recovers. They should be sold by auction to let the private sector invest in Bristol.