Tag: Shrewsbury shopping centres

Shropshire Conservatives can’t be trusted with our money after wasting it on Shrewsbury shopping centres

Look hard at the Conservative leaflets that have been pushed through your letterboxes. Do you see any mention of the purchase of the £51 million Shrewsbury shopping centres? £450 for every council tax payer? Of course not. The Conservatives pressured Shropshire Council into buying the retails units just before the market collapsed and that was before coronavirus. Before the pandemic, the shopping centres were providing the council with an annual return on investment of less than half a per cent. The centres were pushed through the council by Peter Nutting who has long seen himself as Mr Shrewsbury with the task of promoting Shrewsbury First. After the purchase, he even had the gall to tell councillors there was no money for investment in the market towns.

Shrewsbury shopping centres plummet in value by two thirds – Shropshire Council shrugs off the loss

The devaluation of the Pride Hill, Darwin and now defunct Riverside shopping centres within the Shrewsbury Loop will be a surprise to no one. But the collapse in value from £51m to £17.5m– 66 per cent – over three years is bigger than expected. It is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, retail devaluation seen anywhere in England in such a short period. Shropshire Council has shrugged this off as an expected devaluation. Deputy Council leader Steve Charmley said: “We were aware of the possible downturn in the fortunes of the high street – an issue compounded by COVID-19 – but it’s for exactly that reason that the purchase was made – so that we could manage and mitigate any downturn.” The Shrewsbury shopping centres are expected to provide a profit to council tax payers of just £434,000 this financial year. Less than one per cent return on the original investment. The council could have better spent our money on social housing.

Shropshire Council gives upbeat update on its huge investment in Shrewsbury shopping centres

Shropshire Council has made a lot of controversial decisions. Many have reduced help for those that most need it. The council has also focussed on Oswestry and Shrewsbury at the expense of rural areas. That’s why it decided to spend £51 million to buy three shopping centres in closed session in January 2018. It has been a mixed picture since with some new retail units opening but a general trend of store closures and rent reductions. More taxpayer’s money is to be invested in improving the stores in a climate of declining high streets. The council continued to justify its biggest ever purchase at a meeting last week, claiming that the shopping centres have a rosy future. I hope so but the council could have better invested our money in improving the social fabric of the county by building desperately needed council houses. And I have doubts that the council can succeed when retail companies can’t make many high streets work. Shropshire Council cut £10 million a year from its highways budget. It said this cut would be reversed when the shopping centres generate enough income. That doesn’t look likely any time soon as the shopping centres generate a pre-tax…

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Shropshire Council throws £51 million at Shrewsbury shopping centres – it is the wrong investment

Late last month, Shropshire Council concluded its controversial deal to purchase three Shrewsbury shopping centres from an offshore trust. The price was £51 million. The Shropshire Star called the deal “an extraordinary and historic purchase” and described the council as “brave”. Bravery is one thing but I suspect this purchase to be unwise. If I had £51 million in my pocket, I wouldn’t invest it in shopping centres. I’d use the money to improve the social fabric of our county by building council housing.

Yesterday, Shropshire Council agreed in private session to buy the Darwin, Pride Hill and Riverside shopping centres. BBC Radio Shropshire is suggesting that the purchase price is £60 million. The day before, the cabinet agreed to spend £300,000 on consultancy fees to examine refurbishing Shirehall at the cost of more than £18 million. If the government approves the North West Relief Road around Shrewsbury, the council will chip in £21 million and pay for any overspend. In the same breath, it is aiming to raise £1.2 million a year by imposing contributions to council tax on some of the poorest in our county. This cruel imbalance in spending and taxation partly arises from political ambitions and dogma. It also arises from spending cuts and the obscurity of local government accounting rules that prevent us spending capital receipts on services.

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