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Leicester mayor raises £15 million selling off council buildings and land


City mayor Sir Peter Soulsby has raised more than £15 million by selling off council-owned buildings and land in Leicester since he was elected, it has been revealed.

Leicester City Council released details of property transactions it has completed since the Labour mayor took office nearly two years ago, following a request from the Mercury.

The income from land and property sales will be put towards projects including Sir Peter's controversial decision to spend £4 million developing a new public plaza in St Nicholas' Place, as well as the £7 million redevelopment of the market.

Deals so far include a windfall of more than £13 million achieved through the sale of 51 acres of land in East Hamilton to a housing developer, for more than 350 homes to be built.

Sir Peter said further sales of undisclosed land and buildings which have already been agreed will bring in a further £8 million during the next two years.

"The Government is making savage cuts to the amount we have to spend but we have under-used assets we can make use of to bring in money for schemes that will create jobs and prosperity," he said.

Opposition councillors have questioned whether the mayor is getting value for money and whether he is spending the cash he has made wisely.

Land at the city's former velodrome site, off Saffron Lane, was sold for the nominal sum of £1, to a housing association which wants to build 100 social homes.

Sir Peter has spent £1.73 million acquiring buildings and land including, as previously reported in the Mercury, the Alderman Newton School – earmarked as a Richard III visitor centre – and the derelict Victorian Friar's Mill complex by the River Soar.

The money raised through sales is on top of the authority's annual £50 million-plus capital budget funded by Government grants and borrowing.

Sir Peter stressed the capital income would not be used to reduce cuts to the authority's day-to-day spending.

"You have to use these receipts to invest in the city," he said. "You cannot use them for the running costs of the council, because the value of the asset will be gone after 18 months and that shortchanges the city.

"The money will be put to good use supporting my economic action plan to create jobs. Some of the sales have unlocked disused land for much- needed housing. It is about getting the best for the city, which is not necessarily selling stuff off to property developers for the highest sum."

As well as the plans for the market and the public plaza, the council is spending £5.9 million on an innovation centre aimed at kick-starting the wider development of the city's science park off Abbey Lane.

Tory opposition councillor Ross Grant said he accepted there was a need to make money by selling surplus assets but questioned the mayor's priorities for using the money.

He said: "You can only sell these assets once, so it's vital the money is spent appropriately. Spending it on things such as Jubilee Square, which will cost millions, is a gamble because it's unproven what we will get back."

Coun Grant said there were important projects that were being overlooked.

He said: "I'm not sure these sales are being properly scrutinised to ensure they are the best deals.

"The mayor buys and sells and then informs councillors."

Liberal Democrat opposition councillor Nigel Porter said: "I'd be a bit worried that the mayor's selling at the bottom of the market and giving things away on the cheap to pay for his pet projects."

The council has not revealed details about any of the buyers.

Leicester mayor raises £15 million  selling off council buildings and land

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