PUBLISHED: 06:30 08 February 2020 | UPDATED: 09:03 08 February 2020
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Norwich City Council has bought a Travelodge in Essex for more than £6m, it has been revealed.
And City Hall leaders say they are prepared to spend further millions to snap up other commercial properties.
The city council, which had already spent millions to buy a gym in Kent and a cold store in Corby, bought the Harlow hotel for £6.2m last November.
Leaders say, against a backdrop of dwindling government grants, it is increasingly having to look at other ways to generate money.
The authority says commercial investments bring in rent, while future sales would generate more cash for the council.
The council owns some 200 investment properties, which bring in just under £2m a year.
Previous purchases included £2.2m on a gym in a Ramsgate shopping centre and £7.2m on a cold store in Corby.
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The council also bought properties in Norwich, including Lloyds Bank in Gentleman’s Walk (£6.8m), shops in London Street and Bedford Street (£9.4m) and St Giles House (£2.3m). It has spent more than £50m since September 2017.
And, in its budget for next year, due to be agreed on February 25, the council is due to agree to set aside another £25m for further investments.
Paul Kendrick, Labour cabinet member with responsibility for financial and investment management, defended the purchases. He said: “We are planning to continue to invest in commercial properties in the next year and build on the success of previous purchases.
“The aim, as it has always been, is to generate much needed income from the rents which goes on to support council services and deliver the vision for the city.”
But such purchases have been controversial.
Martin Schmierer, leader of the opposition Green group at City Hall, questioned whether such investments are prudent.
He said: “It’s no secret that the commercial sector is struggling, yet we are taking out loans to purchase these properties.
“They may be making a return now, but I wonder if that will be the case five to 10 years from now and whether the council will be able to sell them. This is taxpayers’ money.”
Mr Schmierer said he would rather see investment in schemes such as solar farms, which he said brought an environmental and economic benefit.
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