Mansfield District Council has been strongly criticised for move, which it says is a financial decision to help it fund vital services
The authority said the investment, which is funded by a loan, will help generate more income which will in turn help pay for council services and make-up a budget shortfall caused in part by a reduction in funding from central government.
But centre-right pressure group the Taxpayers’ Alliance has accused the council of ‘gambling’ with public money.
MORE ON THIS STORY: Final farewell for Meden Sports Centre
The council, which is controlled by the Mansfield Independent Forum, is not the only council in the area to have investments outside its boundaries.
Labour-controlled Nottingham City Council has purchased properties as far afield as Newcastle and Birmingham.
But Harry Fone, grassroots campaign manager of the Taxpayers’ Alliance said: “The council’s decision is incredibly irresponsible and could lead to serious financial troubles.
“Rather than trying to increase efficiency and make savings to overcome their £750,000 budget shortfall, Mansfield District Council has opted to gamble with borrowed money.
“Worse still the money isn’t even being invested in Mansfield. Why did it close Meden Sports Centre yet spend £1.6 million on a fitness centre in Manchester?
“The council has sent a clear to message to local taxpayers that Mansfield is not worth investing in.”
The group is now planning on holding a ‘day of action’ against the decision this Saturday (November 24).
Executive Mayor of Mansfield, Kate Allsop, said: “The council’s asset acquisition programme, which generates income used to protect and invest in local services, is just one way in which the council is trying to meet its budget shortfall.
“The council is also reviewing the services it provides to make savings and efficiencies, moving more services online to save money and letting out space in the Civic Centre to bring in additional income.
“Currently, the council has a balanced property portfolio; this includes £319.1m worth of property within Mansfield district and £23.9m worth elsewhere. It should be noted that many local authorities in this country have followed Mansfield’s lead and we are held as an exemplar.
“Many councils have investment property portfolios now to help them generate income to pay for services so Mansfield is not unusual in investing in this way.
“The council has a duty to taxpayers to ensure that income is maximised and the investment is secure. Any properties are acquired on that basis, irrespective of their location, following advice from a specialist investment management company.
“While it is true to say the council owns a property in which the current tenant is a leisure provider, it is misleading to suggest the council has spent £1.6m on a fitness centre outside of the district.
“The council has no financial or management role associated with any private business based in property it owns. The Meden Sports Centre referred to is owned by Nottinghamshire County Council not Mansfield District Council.”
A decision was made by Mansfield District Council in January to stop managing the Meden Sports Centre from April this year, because of ‘long-standing concerns over the condition of the building’.
The building, which is owned by Nottinghamshire County Council, was handed back to the owners in April.
Kit Sandeman , Local Democracy Reporting Service