Ban on controversial farm sales proposed
Councillors are expected to debate a motion that stops the controversial sale of county farms until new rules are put in place.
The proposed motion, due to take place at a Powys County Council meeting, is expected to cost the authority just under £3.3 million and possibly as much as £10 million in the long term, a report reveals.
The motion follows issues surrounding the sale of 218 acres of the council’s farm estate in the village of Leighton near Welshpool which was revealed in September.
The buyers are believed to be Welshpool-based waste and recycling firm Potters who are said to be willing to offer £5 million for the land which is above the valuation of £4.13 million.
The report was discussed by the Liberal Democrat/Labour cabinet in confidential session and due to the lack of transparency and scrutiny of the proposal has been criticised by opposition councillors ever since.
Conservative Councillor Amanda Jenner is expected to place the motion in front of councillors which will be seconded by Councillor Gareth D Jones of the Independent group.
Cllr Jenner said: “We call on the council to ask cabinet to immediately refrain from considering any future proposals in the current financial year for farm sales pending approval by full council of a county farms policy that has been properly scrutinised and includes a transparent and specific disposal/sales policy in respect of farms and farm property owned by the council.”
The reasons behind the motion according to Councillor Jenner are: “The ongoing uncertainty being caused to all County Farm tenants is impacting their ability to effectively plan for their future business, livelihoods, and housing needs.
Councillor Jenner also believed that lack of a “transparent policy” on farm sales is bringing the council to “disrepute.”
Over the last three-year period, the council has made £2.875 million from the “rationalisation of farms and farmland” with another £406,000 coming this year up to the end of October.
The report also says that £5.275 million in sales has also been approved.
The report said: “If approved this motion will prevent the release of the estimated £3.357 million of capital receipts from currently unoccupied farms, whilst maintaining and in some cases increasing the council’s liability for these properties as a number are not in a condition to the re-let or would not make viable businesses going forward due their size.”
Using the money raised through sales instead of borrowing to fund the council’s building programme would save an estimated £201,000 a year and provide an overall saving on borrowing of over £10 million over a 50-year period.
The report explains that if councillors agree the motion the local authority would impact on the council’s ability to deal with future properties that become vacant.
The report says: “Having vacant/surplus properties unoccupied incurs costs to the council to maintain them. Insurance, Council Tax and regular inspections to ensure they remain safe and secure would continue if sales cannot be progressed.”
“There is also the risk of damage to vacant properties, vandalism, leaks and other damage, especially during the winter months.”
“The financial challenge facing the council in the next few years cannot be underestimated and to change policy independently now without considering the wider implications of the full budget proposal is not advised.”
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