Mark Williams (Director of RivingtonHark) gives his view on the importance of Local Authority involvement

The Sunday Times well regarded Retail and Property Correspondent, Sam Chambers has shone the spotlight on Local Authority involvement in buying property. Parliament is also now being asked to investigate.

This  is a complex subject where Local Authorities are short of resource and are under pressure to help rejuvenate their town centres. Judicial use of low cost and long term borrowing has been used by many to help. This work has come under fire though by so called “leading property agents”, who have criticized Local Authorities  without being prepared to put their name to their case. I was  quoted in The Sunday Times robustly defending the professionalism and skill (in my colourful language) of the people who work at Local Authorities. This support is not new

7 years ago I was honoured to Chair the Governments Retail Property Taskforce. I was superbly aided by senior representatives from the BPF; BRC; RICS; IPF; LGA; Real Estate Lending Forum; Association of Property Lenders; Booksellers Association and of course Revo. Additionally people from Javelin; Legal and General; Next; Gloucester LEP; RBS; Aberdeen Standard and GL Hearn. We also commissioned detailed research from Colliers. Finally we had observers (but very helpful) from 3 government departments including the Treasury.

Our report , titled “Beyond Retail”  was submitted to the Government (free email copies happily on request ). It is unique not only because of the Public/ Private partnership formation of the Taskforce,  but also due to the unanimous recommendations made.

Of the total of 20 recommendations made, virtually all have been acted upon (Business Rates still outstanding). Chief among these was the call for more resource to help Local Authorities tackle their town centres, and encouraging them to intervene (invest/ rejuvenate) where the private sector were unable to. That Local Authorities are now doing this should be supported.

True, we never forecast the current global pandemic, or the huge human and economic cost it is causing. Had we that foresight it would have simply strengthen those recommendations 10 fold. Without doubt this is causing short term cash flow issues for all, but Local Authority who have made a 40 year investment decisions are better placed than many to ride this through.

So here’s to supporting our Local Authorities who we are going to need more than ever to help, both in the continued front line work they are doing now, but also in helping us rebuild our local economies when we move out of our lockdown.

Mark Williams

Executive Director