Flaunt your assets: Council’s treasure trove of property ‘vital’ to save Manchester from further budget cuts

Swimming pools, retail units and pubs are amongst some of more than 200 assets owned by Manchester City Council, MM can reveal.

In the wake of the announcement of £59million cuts to the city’s budget this year, MM submitted a Freedom of Information request to the council to discover their other sources of income.

The full list of assets reveals a treasure trove of council-owned property and land including the Manchester Aquatics Centre, The Velodrome and The Thompsons Arms pub in The Village.

The most notable include a retail unit in the prestigious 1 Deansgate apartment block, the national squash centre and more than 20 car parks in the city centre alone.

A tax campaign group criticised councils with large asset portfolio at a time when they were making cuts to public services and said the properties should be sold to the private sector.

Jonathan Isaby, Chief Executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “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.”

However Manchester City Council said assets generated much needed income for the council and paid for services that would otherwise have to be cut.

Deputy Leader Councillor Bernard Priest said: “The city council is the land owner of many sites across Manchester. 

“Many of these are historical acquisitions and comprise freehold interests subject to long leases. 

“A large proportion of the council’s estate is subject to low value ground rents – but all income from these interests are used to help support the city council’s budget.”

In total the council’s 237 assets include 97 retail units, 70 public houses, 48 car parks and 22 leisure centres.

While the council does not operate most of the businesses with premises on the land that it owns, some, such as leisure centres, are community facilities run on a not-for-profit basis.

Old Moat Labour Councillor Garry Bridges said any income generated by these assets is exactly why having them, and not selling them, is the best way to quell the impact of current budget cuts, and also prevent them getting any worse.

He told MM: “It is right that the council owns land and property that can be used to benefit taxpayers.

“With the huge funding cuts the council has had from central government, the extra money generated from assets like car parks and retail units is vital to prevent cuts to public services.

“Also many residents tell me how much they value being able to access world class sporting facilities such as the aquatic centre and the velodrome, which they wouldn’t be able to do without the council funding them.”

Manchester council has had its government funding cut by £250million between 2011 and 2015 and had to make further cuts of £59million in its budget this year.

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