The latest borough council draft Financial Statement is available on the council’s website. It’s a detailed documentPeter has written about the council’s purchase of The Square. As we’re not an accountant, we’ll quote him verbatim:
“Within a period of 40 months from the date of purchase yields have doubled, rents have declined to the point that some premises operate rent-free, and voids are at a far higher level than forecasted. All of this was foreseeable and retail industry and commercial property experts were warning of this early in 2016. Also, in 2016 in the US, where internet shopping was more advanced than in the UK, Malls were closing at a rapid rate as consumers changed their shopping habits.
“The Council, in the financial year 2015-16 prior to the purchase of the Mall, had reserves of £47 million and cash net of debt £7 million. As at 31 March 2020, pre Covid-19, the reserves were NEGATIVE £31 million and DEBT net of cash £ 145 million. A diminution in reserves of £78 million and a debt increase of £152 million.
“Tonight, there’s a meeting of the Performance and Finance Scrutiny Committee (watch on Youtube from 7pm, https://www.youtube.com/user/SurreyHeathBC). One item on the agenda is titled ‘Property Investments’: the Committee is seeking an independent inquiry into the Council’s acquisition of The Mall and other properties.”
What is particularly galling about this horrendous decline in OUR finances is that it took place whilst the previous Chief Executive was in power. Yet the Financial Statement appears to show that she continued to receive her full salary while on extended leave – the lengthy period during which her ‘additional duties’ allowance was being investigated.