Slough council eyes £600 million assets sale to reduce 'untenable' borrowing

The chief finance officer at Slough Borough Council has insisted there will be no ‘fire sale’ despite the local authority needing to sell £600 million of assets to ease its financial crisis.

The Labour-controlled council says it needs to get rid of half of its land and buildings to pay back ‘untenable’ levels of borrowing which currently stand at £750 million.

Slough issued a Section 114 notice in July banning all non-essential expenditure and has now drawn up a debt repayment strategy to tackle its dire financial position.

A meeting of the council’s cabinet last night heard that the embattled local authority is looking to generate £200 million through the sale of assets by 2024.

This money will be used firstly to fund any capitalisation directives from the Government which would allow the council to sell land and buildings to pay for the day-to-day running of services.

Further money made will go towards reducing the council’s levels of borrowing.

Chief finance officer, Steven Mair, told the meeting: “We will look at everything that the council owns and assess it in an appropriate manner but we’re not ruling anything out and we’re not ruling anything in.”

He added: “We’ve tried to be extremely clear that this is not a fire sale, it is not a quick sale and we must absolutely ensure best value and everything that we do.”

Tory councillor Wayne Strutton, leader of the opposition, asked whether the council’s own housing stock, which is currently valued at £550 million, could be sold off to fund the cost-cutting measures.

Leader of the council, Labour councillor James Swindlehurst, said he did not want to alarm residents living in council homes and said the local authority plans to decide which assets to sell in a ‘rational way’ over the next two years.

He added: “All the non-operational assets and the out-of-borough assets will be dealt with long before we dig in to the important housing assets of the HRA.

“It’s not immune from our review process and we know that we need to generate significant sales.

“But I don’t want the sense out of this meeting you’ve created some sort of alarm for all our tenants because they’re in a very stable situation and they will be protected while we do all the proper work to review what we need to do as a council to generate sales and balance the books.”

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