Sunderland council slammed for pleading poverty while owning huge assets

Coun Mel Speding believes the city council's assets are vital.
Coun Mel Speding believes the city council's assets are vital.
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A lobbying group has criticised the council for pleading poverty while it owns an extensive range of assets.

The TaxPayers’ Alliance says it’s hypocritical that Sunderland City Council has to “plead poverty” by making £170million in spending cuts during the last five years, while owning numerous assets.

Many assets are integral parts of the city’s social fabric.

Coun Mel Speding, the council’s cabinet secretary, said

Data obtained by the Freedom of Information Act, shows that as of April 1 2014, the local authority owned two golf courses, 44 car parks, two theatres, one pub, seven farms and two restaurants.

However, Coun Mel Speding, the council’s cabinet secretary, said: “The city council holds and oversees assets such as the Sunderland Empire for and on behalf of the community, and many of these are integral parts of the social fabric of our city. We are always looking at adding further value to our assets and only this week have started a joint venture with Sports and Leisure Management to help manage sports and leisure facilities.

“And, with the financial restraints that the council is operating under, we continue to market and look at ways and means of achieving best value for all community assets.”

Jothanan Isaby, chief executive of the 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.