Liberal Democrats on Surrey County Council have revealed almost £67m of public money has been spent on buying properties outside the county, using a council-owned property company called Halsey Garton Property Limited. The properties purchased with funding from the Conservative-run Council were mainly warehouses situated in locations such as Wiltshire, Bristol, Worksop and Salford. The most expensive acquisition was an office in Bristol, at the cost of just under £20m.
Councillor Hazel Watson, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on Surrey County Council, said:
"The £67m spent outside the county would be better invested in Surrey. The roads and footways are in urgent need of improvement, some of our town centres need investment to help regenerate the local economy and boost economic growth. Buying a warehouse in Wiltshire, or an office block in Bristol does not boost the economy of Surrey. The County Council will soon be able to retain 100% of its locally raised business rates, therefore it would make more sense to invest in Surrey's infrastructure and economy so that it can reap the future financial benefit.
"Urgent investment is needed here in Surrey in a number of areas, such as key worker housing which will have the effect of reducing the council's reliance on costly agency staff. Council buildings could become more energy efficient, which can lead to substantial savings from energy bills. Money is also needed to improve road safety, such as providing pedestrian crossings.
"I am calling on the council to change its policy with regard to spending millions of pounds on property outside of the county. The Conservative administration at County Hall is pleading poverty and cutting services whilst at the same time spending money on warehouses miles away from Surrey. Residents deserve better and for money to be spent where it is needed, instead being frittered away outside of Surrey.
The link to Cllr Watson's question, and the answer provided, can be found here at Appendix 1: