South Tyneside Council under fire for pleading poverty while owning huge range of assets

A council-owned car park in Mile End Road, South Shields, which is part of South Tyneside Council's portfolio of assets.
A council-owned car park in Mile End Road, South Shields, which is part of South Tyneside Council's portfolio of assets.

A lobbying group has criticised South Tyneside’s cash-strapped council for pleading poverty while owning a “huge” range of assets.

The TaxPayers’ Alliance says it’s hypocritical that South Tyneside Council hiked the council tax rate up by 1.95%, to help make savings of £22million this financial year, while owning a range of assets.

It is unfair and inaccurate of the Alliance to suggest we have a ‘huge asset portfolio’.

South Tyneside Council spokesman

Data, obtained by the Freedom of Information Act, shows that as of April 1 2014, South Tyneside Council owned 51 car parks, one shop, two restaurants/cafes and two pubs.

However, council chiefs say the data is misleading and the two pubs, which are now demolished, were acquired as part as regeneration plans.

A council spokesman said: “It is unfair and inaccurate of the Alliance to suggest we have a ‘huge asset portfolio’.

“Over the past four years the council has undertaken a rationalisation of its property portfolio which has enabled the closure of various under-used and economically unsustainable assets.

“It is extremely unfortunate that the Alliance has not taken account of the wider context in which the council operates when publishing its report.”

Jothanan Isaby, chief executive of the Alliance, added: “It looks deeply hypocritical for councils to plead poverty as an excuse for hiking council tax when they’ve got such a huge asset portfolio. Local authorities should be focussed on essential services.”