COUNCILLORS are to become property developers in a bid to stave off an ‘eye watering’ cash crisis.
The Observer has learnt that West Sussex County Council plans to offset cuts in government grant by building houses on land it owns.
Senior councillors are to form a board of directors under the name of ‘Propco’ which will oversee sites where, it is believed, some 800 homes a year will be developed. The plans are that the homes will then be let to private tenants for around £1,000 a month.
The Observer understands the county council has already identified several sites including Orchard Street, Chichester, a site at Barnham and two sites at Littlehampton where it intends to develop new homes on its own land.
A spokesman for the council confirmed the proposed building sites, but told the Observer: “It is not possible to say at this stage the timing of how each property would be developed as work to assess and plan this is under way.”
He added “The county council is pursuing strategies to better manage development properties.
“This is with a view to generating a higher level of return, whether this be in higher receipts through sales or through revenue generation, for example through private rented properties.”
He added: “The county council has financed many new projects from its capital fund through the sale of surplus land and property. Now, in tough financial times, the aim is to maximise any benefits from our land and property holdings for the benefit of our residents and taxpayers to support future developments.”
The prediction is that government grants to support council services will be slashed by another £140m in 2015. And council leaders are being forced to find new ways of generating income
County council leader Louise Goldsmith has described the financial situation as ‘eye watering’ and said: “The scale of the challenge ahead for the county council is immense.”