Ahead of the final decision about next year’s Council Tax, Wealden District Council has said its purchase of the shopping centre in Hailsham provided good value for council tax payers.
The Council purchased the shopping centre for £12.35 million in December. The Vicarage Fields Shopping Centre was built in the 1960s, although the current anchor premises which houses Waitrose was rebuilt in the 1990s. The two storey development consists of 17 retail units with offices and residential flat upstairs.
Council Leader Leader Bob Standley said:
In recent years the Council has been delivering more for less, maintaining services but at a reduced cost. When it comes to commercialisation, I think there are some things a council should and should not do.
I don’t agree with those councils that have bought shopping centres miles outside their areas, but if it is in the council’s own patch and can help regeneration, and support the high street, that is something we should consider.
Wealden District Council’s operating costs for the coming year have been reduced by £600,000 thanks to the rental income from the Vicarage Fields shopping centre. It represents a 4.2% improvement on the returns the Council could make through Treasury investment, and is already making a difference to the Council’s finances. The net cost of the Council’s services is being reduced from £16.3 million in the current year to £15.8 million.
Wealden’s Cabinet is proposing a £5 a year increase to the average Band D property for Wealden’s share of the Council tax bill, with proportionate increases for other council tax bands. Funding to the Council from central government has fallen sharply in recent years and 2018/19 will be the first year that the Council will not receive any Revenue Support Grant. The final decision on Wealden’s Council Tax will be taken by Full Council on Wednesday (21st February).