FOUR of the 'secret' assets BCP Council are trying to sell were mistakenly listed during a public meeting on Monday night.

Members of the council’s corporate overview and scrutiny committee were due to discuss issues around the list of assets considered for disposal, in a debate originally intended to exclude the public and the press.

However, after agreement no specific sites would be mentioned, the discussion was taken ‘above the line’ – in the public domain.

Councillors had asked for information on the wider list of assets considered for disposal and the reasons for those on the shortlist, as well as the timetable for the disposal.

However, some committee members were unhappy at the information provided and did not feel their request had been fulfilled.

Read more: BCP Council industrial unit land sale now 'unlikely'

The assets up for sale by the council have never previously been named due to commercial sensitivities. 

Just minutes in to his presentation, Miles Phillips, head of estates at BCP Council, mentioned four sites by name

  • Wessex Trade Centre in Poole
  • Airfield Industrial Estate in Christchurch
  • Crescent Road
  • 35 Willis Way in Poole

His presentation was swiftly halted while committee chairman, Cllr Lawrence Williams reminded the officer that the discussion was above the line.

In May, council leader Drew Mellor said the sale of 35 Willis Way, which is home to 17 industrial units, would not be proceeding.

The local authority has asked government to borrow £76million over the next few years to fund transformation following the collapse of the plan to finance this work through the sale of the beach hut stock.

The council hopes the money can be financed through capital receipts gained from selling assets rather than through the capitalisation direction requested from government.

However, opposition members have branded the swift disposal of council assets as a ‘fire-sale’.

Read more: Bournemouth and Poole councils buy commercial property

During the meeting on Monday, Mr Phillips said the criteria which chose which assets the council was going to sell was based on value, whether they were non-strategic and also the timing.

The local authority wanted to ensure that money from the sale was received by March 31 next year.

He said there was ‘never a long list which met that criteria’.

The list of assets is due to be presented to council at the beginning of January, he added, before naming four of them.

In the discussion which followed, former council leader, Cllr Vikki Slade said the response to their request for information from the leader of the council and senior officers, took members “for idiots”.

Cllr Mohan Iyengar said: “We haven’t got the answer.

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“The administration is so keen to avoid the word fire-sale, but everything we have seen indicates that it is actually”.

He added: “There’s never been a long list – well it beggars the question why not? “The council has got 100 assets, why these ones, why not a broader set of assets under question?”

Chief finance officer, Adam Richens said officers had reviewed the council’s entire asset register and the those put forward were the ones which matched that high level criteria.

He said it was clear that in their response over £20million capitalisation direction for 2022/23, that the government expected the council to generate capital receipts to avoid a capitalisation direction.

Read more: The 8 assets that made BCP Council £2.7million last year

Cllr Iyengar said: “I do find it strange what people are finding so difficult about the request this committee has made. It’s making me feel funny about what is going on. It is not an unusual request.”

Cllr Slade added: “We don’t need a £76million transformation That’s on this administration. Now they won’t tell us where we’re going to find that money from.

“It didn’t need to be this way. You cant blame that on cost of living crisis, Putin’s war or Covid.”

The council’s investment portfolio, as of April this year, included eight assets: Mallard Road Retail Park, Madeira Road Student Accommodation, Citrus Building (ground floor Turtle Bay), Wessex Trade Centre, Dolphin Shopping Centre, Saxon Square, Airfield Industrial Park and Parkway House Avenue Road.

A spokesperson for BCP Council said: “During last night’s (December 12) Corporate and Community Overview and Scrutiny Committee hearing a part of the meeting relating to ongoing discussions regarding the potential sale of a number of council assets was heard in public when it should have been discussed in private.

“This mistake was down to human error and BCP Council apologises for any confusion that this may have caused.

“We are investigating the circumstances that led to the error and once the investigation is concluded will consider whether further measures could be put in place to ensure the error cannot be repeated.”