Cllr Dexter Smith is perhaps justifiably astonished at the lack of forward thinking at Slough Borough Council.
It’s so easy to solve a problem if you ignore the side effects of the ‘solution’. But it’s hard to believe quite how widespread such a phenomenon is.
Governments everywhere have turned a blind eye to mounting debt while they surged ahead with reckless spending.
And in the UK councils seem to follow the Government’s lead. Slough is one of many local authorities who sought to boost finances with property acquisitions. Woking Borough Council is now facing a similar situation.
Why no-one noticed the risks in spending hundreds of millions on property is difficult to understand. Now push is coming to shove and property values are looking precarious.
But since the properties owned by Slough Borough Council are many and varied, it seems there are many and varied stories about how they were acquired.
One due for sale next year, Nova House, comes with a history in which it was discovered to have Grenfell-style cladding and was then bought for £1 by the council with a plan to spend £4 million on repairs – not in an effort to make a profit but to save the residents a lot of grief.
However, the £4m of repairs rose to £20m. Strange how that sort of thing happens so often on building projects. If your mechanic quoted you £400 to repair your car, you’d be unlikely to accept a bill of £2,000.
Perhaps more will be learned when Nova House has to be sold. How many other stories are tucked away in Avison Young’s assessment of the council’s assets?
And what similar cases are waiting in the confidential documents within Woking, Spelthorne and who-knows-how-many councils around the country? Maybe it’s the system in which spending other people’s money is too easy, that really needs to be overseen.
Anglesea Capital’s plan to demolish Maidenhead Office Park and replace it with an industrial park is as clear a sign of fast-changing times as we have seen so far.
A park, not even 25 years old, has a bleak future, perhaps because some of the offices within it, as their advertising literature points out, have an EPC rating of D.
Tightening sustainability requirements and a changing marketplace must weigh heavily on landlords, but to look at the smart, modern interior – and exterior – and the very generous parking and consider the bulldozers are waiting, does make you wonder if knocking down modern buildings was quite what sustainability was meant to be about.
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