‘Race against time’ to sell Slough properties and land
Slough Borough Council’s plan to ‘speed up’ the process of selling almost half of its properties and land has been approved by the local authority’s cabinet. Senior advisers have agreed a plan to sell assets worth £600m to reduce its £760m loan debt and £479m black hole, “ in right time”.
It is hoped that by selling almost half of his £1.2bn portfolio of assets, he will reduce his debt to a sustainable level by April 1, 2027. To dispose of the assets in time appropriate, a cabinet committee will be set up. decide on the sale of assets on a case-by-case basis.
Council Leader James Swindlehurst (Lab: Cippenham Green) will appoint the members of this committee. The report will be submitted to the July full board meeting for final approval. The four assets outside the borough, including the Odeon cinema in Basingstoke, which was bought as a revenue generator, are among the first wave of properties to disappear.
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Speaking at the cabinet meeting on Monday June 20, Cllr Rob Anderson (Laboratory: Britwell & Northborough), senior member responsible for financial oversight and board assets, said: “We believe there is no no reason to hold on to these [out-of-borough assets] and will greatly reduce our risks if we eliminate them as soon as possible. Following this, the council will sell its properties and land in the borough.
However, that worries Cllr Wayne Strutton (Con: Haymill & Lynch Hill), believing the local authority won’t get a good return on these sales if they ‘stay on them too long’. He said: ‘If we sit on it too long, we could lose and have negative equity because of the amount of money we pay in additional interest if interest rates go up or if we can’t renew certain of our low-cost short-term interest.
Cllr Swindlehurst said they brought in business adviser Avison and Young to advise the council on the right time to sell their assets for the best price. Meanwhile, Cllr Anderson said most of the borough’s assets are development sites, meaning they are “more complicated” and will “take longer” to sell.
He also said non-rounding assets returned their expected return “generally” but due to the size of the council’s debt they were at risk as their value could drop or tenants might not pay their rent. Avison and Young are expected to produce their first report to senior members at the end of the month on how the board should proceed with its large-scale asset disposal program.