Property sales cash goes back into frontline services, council says

Clarke Hall in Aberford Road, was recently sold by the council for 476,000.
Clarke Hall in Aberford Road, was recently sold by the council for 476,000.

Wakefield Council says the money it makes from property sales is reinvested in vital frontline services, after figures showed it made £16m from selling assets between 2014 and 2018.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ) revealed on Monday that the authority had sold dozens of sites over a four-and-a-half year period.

One of the biggest sales was that of the old Redcats industrial estate on Horbury Road, which was sold for £3m after being set aside for housebuilding, and a former primary school site and playing fields on Lawefield Lane.

Although 83 properties were listed by the BIJ as having been sold, the council has clarified that six of these were in fact land leases to academies, rather than direct sales.

In a statement, chief finance officer Neil Warren said: "Faced with sustained reductions in government funding between April 2011 and March 2019, the council has had to make some difficult decisions to manage financial pressures of almost £200m.

"The proceeds from the sale of land and buildings help the council to meet the twin challenges of funding cuts and increasing demand for services, whilst also protecting the vital frontline services that our residents rely on.

"The vast majority of the money raised from these sales is used to support the council’s budget and capital programme such as improvements to many schools, operational buildings and infrastructure such as highways and parks across the district.

"The council reviews these sites, on a regular basis, to ensure that they are meeting the needs of our residents and delivering services or generating income to support our priorities."

The BIJ's findings this week also showed that the council had bought 22 properties over the same time period, at an aggregate cost of around £2.5m.

These included the old Wood Street police station, which could be redeveloped into a hotel.