Councillor Danny Myers, Labour Group Leader in City of York Council, has criticised a decision by the ruling Lib-Dem/Green administration to cash in on a valuable council asset rather than retaining it for public use. Labour challenged the decision to sell off the property, at The Avenue in Clifton, arguing the asset’s value could be retained by the council and still deliver an income in future years, but the challenge was blocked by ruling councillors.
“It’s disappointing that ruling Lib Dem and Green councillors have been unwilling to look at alternative uses for this building,” said Cllr Myers,“instead opting to cash in now and release an asset that could have provided the council with an income for many years to come.
“Although the outcome of our challenge to this decision was disappointing, I’m pleased the Lib Dem Executive Member responsible, Coun. Nigel Ayre, acknowledged that the process isn’t as clear as it could be when it comes to the council disposing of assets like this one, and that the cross-party committee hearing the call in agreed to review this process.
“Councillors and the public need a better understanding of how this policy compares with investing in the council’s assets to ensure they are fit for purpose long term and generating income for the council, if we are to have confidence that taxpayers’ money is being managed effectively.
“Whilst the temptation at the present time may be to cash in as much as possible on the council’s assets, it may not always be in its financial longer term interests”.
Cllr. Myers had called for a range of options to be considered before ruling councillors made a decision on the building’s future. The lucrative sale of the site is expected to make a significant contribution to the council’s 4 year capital programme, which requires the council to bring in £11m by 2024-25, something Cllr. Myers says explains the drive to sell it off.
“We need more openness in how proposals like this are brought forward with much more justification, indeed any justification would be useful. As it was this sale proposal was little more than a footnote in what was a very important report from the council on mental health housing and support, something that risks poor decision making in future if it’s repeated”.