Council’s property investments help balance budget for Bedford Borough Council

Stock image - Money
Stock image - Money

A dormant company is being brought back to life so that Bedford Borough Council can develop land it owns and make money out of it, instead of selling assets off.

The private company, Benedict Bedford Limited (BBL), was registered with Companies House in December 2016 but the borough’s Budget Scrutiny Committee was told on January 24 that progress had been slow.

Cllr Michael Headley, the Portfolio Holder for Finance, Customer Services and Information Technology, said: “I would’ve liked us to be further advanced than this.”

But he was confident that the council’s officers were going through the details in a rigorous way, so not to put the council’s money at risk. The plan involves the ability for the council to loan BBL up to £6million.

The committee was told that the council has a pipeline of developments that may be appropriate for BBL to develop.

The plan is that instead of selling assets, the council would retain control through its ownership of BBL and, in this way, secure an “additional return from development and potentially long term value in the form of rental income.”

Bedford, like many local authorities, is looking at other ways to generate money as the government reduces general taxpayer support from what is known as the Revenue Support Grant. 

In overall terms, the amount of money the council makes from its various investments is still a relatively small part of its overall £128million budget. The Budget Scrutiny Committee was told that the council would not have a balanced budget if it weren’t for the savings it makes. 

Another way that the council makes money from investments is by owning £70.6million in commercial property and renting it out. Last financial year it made just over £4million this way to help balance the books, including from Wolsely Industrial Estate, in Kempston, and Church Lane shopping parade.