New offices could help plug black hole
THE city council is planning to build its way out of budget difficulties.
Plans are well advanced to create new offices and factories on council-owned industrial estates, Cllr Mark Lowry, Plymouth's Cabinet member for finance, has told The Herald.
City-owned industrial estates already bring in about £6million a year in rents, Cllr Lowry said.
But the council needs to cut £17million from this year's budget and an additional £15million in real terms next year.
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"I am looking at raising revenue in a more proactive way," Cllr Lowry said. He said there was a demand for larger offices and factories in the city.
"That will encourage businesses to relocate to Plymouth, creating jobs and generating rent for the council."
Cllr Lowry said he was looking at land owned by the council, and with infrastructure already in place.
David Parlby, chief executive of Plymouth Chamber of Commerce, welcomed the news.
He said: "There is a fair amount of commercial space available for let but much of it is old and dated and not suitable for modern purposes.
"I could see that there is some logic in this.
"You have to make it as easy as possible for inward investors. Anything which makes it a 'slam-dunk' for investors is a good thing."
Cllr Lowry said that with interest rates as low as 2per cent it made sense to the council to borrow to invest in projects which would generate income.
The council is having to cut £17million from its budget this year and faces having to cut an additional £15million in real terms next year.
The city's 2013/13 budget will come under scrutiny at a series of meetings this week and next.
"The cuts are the result of the coalition Government so the Tories in Plymouth will find it hard to have a go at us," Cllr Lowry said.
"It's a challenge. I have never done anything quite as difficult.
"Behind those cold, hard figures there are going to be real people whose lives will be affected.
"At the same time we have to make sure we grow and develop the city."