THE COUNCIL is facing a more than quarter-million-pound shortfall in rents from commercial properties – prompting calls for stricter measures on investments.

Buckinghamshire Council saw an overall £272,901 underperformance from its retail and office investments, according to analysis by the TaxPayers’ Alliance.

The pressure group reviewed a sample of English councils that had access to loans from the Public Works Loan Board (PWLB).

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Local authorities have “invested heavily” in commercial properties since 2015, the Alliance said, but research up to 2019 revealed some yields “coming in at millions below forecasts”.

“Many have sought to offset reduced revenue support grants from central government, or to prevent rises in council tax, with mixed success,” the campaign group added.

A recession brought about by the pandemic and a spike in people working from home could see rents from the council’s property portfolio tumble, it said.

It called for stricter monitoring of access to such loans, and new conditions for councils such as Buckinghamshire to “demonstrate financial expertise and diversify existing portfolios, before any investments are undertaken”.

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Harry Fone, grassroots campaign manager for the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “The devastating economic impact of coronavirus should cause councils to think twice before rolling the dice with huge sums of taxpayers’ cash.

“While it can see some success, including keeping council tax down, there are no guarantees with any investment and ultimately it’s ratepayers that will end up footing the bill for underperforming portfolios.

“As we emerge from the coronavirus crisis, new measures and mindsets will be needed if we are going to make sure this doesn’t become a disaster waiting to happen for local authority finances.”

Buckinghamshire Council has been approached for comment.