Shropshire Star

Cabinet quizzed on whether £10 million annual sales target will see county farms sold off

Claims that half of the county farms in Powys will be sold to allow the county council to hit an annual target of £10 million in sales have been rubbished as “scaremongering” by a senior councillor.

Photo: dendoktoor/Pixabay

Amidst the hundreds of pages of documents published on the Powys County Council 2024/2025 budget is a line in the capital and treasury management strategy that “at least” £10 million is made from “capital receipts” a year.

This money would be used to help finance the council’s future plans to build new schools, mend roads, maintain council buildings and help reduce the need of borrowing to pay for these projects.

At the council meeting on Thursday, February 22 to discuss next year’s budget Conservative Councillor Adrian Jones brought up the concerns.

Councillor Jones said: “My question is about the figure of £10 million annually from capital receipts.

“In my mind it’s going to target the county farms estate.

“Are there any other jewels in the crown we're going to sell that’s going to give us £50 million over the next five years?”

He believed £50 million is equal to the value of half the county farm estate.

Finance portfolio holder, Labour’s Councillor David Thomas said: “I don’t know where this idea comes from that the capital we want to raise is all going to come from the county farms estate.”

He agreed that £50 million is half the worth of the estate – but pointed out that the council holds £938 million worth of assets.

Councillor Thomas added that there is a wholesale review of assets taking place.

Councillor Jones stressed: “What is likely to give us £10 million a year? You must know that.

“What is likely to be sold?”

Councillor Thomas said: “We’re doing work on that and as opportunities arise, we will identify assets we can dispose of. It won’t necessarily be county farms.

“If school buildings become available there’s a strong possibility they will be sold. We’ve sold school buildings in the past.

“You keep harping on about the county farms being used to raise this £10 million a year, we have £938 million in corporate assets which is a significant sum.

“Let’s move away from this scaremongering and suggesting that we’re going to sell half the county farms, as you have no evidence to back it up.”

The discussion was ended by the council chairwoman, Councillor Beverley Baynham, who said that Councillor Jones had received his answer and moved on to the next question.

The concerns about council farms arose from a deal to sell 218 acres of the council’s farm estate in the village of Leighton near Welshpool which was revealed in September.

The buyer is believed to be Welshpool-based waste and recycling firm Potters which is said to be willing to offer £5 million for the land, above the valuation of £4.13 million.

The report was discussed by the Liberal Democrat/Labour cabinet in confidential session and due to the lack of transparency and scrutiny of the proposal it was heavily criticised by opposition councillors.