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Conservative group leader Ross Mackinnon brands West Berkshire Council’s decision to announce commercial property portfolio sale ‘commercially damaging and naïve’

The leader of the opposition within West Berkshire Council has called in the decision to sell its commercial property portfolio, calling the announcement of the sale “commercially damaging and naïve”.

Conservative group leader Ross Mackinnon – along with seven of the 11 West Berks Tory councillors – sent a letter to the council’s monitoring officer to request the decision be called in for review by the Scrutiny Commission.

The Lib-Dem run council’s executive decided it would sell off its commercial property portfolio, which includes supermarkets, commercial warehousing, a bank and a petrol station, at a potential £7m loss last Thursday.

West Berkshire Council
West Berkshire Council

Mr Mackinnon was critical of both the council’s decision to sell off the portfolio and the way in which this was announced.

He said: “They thought it would be a great idea to announce to the public (and the market) that they needed to sell and even include financial projections showing that selling at a loss was acceptable.

“Having a publicly stated and explicit strategy to disinvest from the entire portfolio over a specific time period puts the council at a severe commercial disadvantage when negotiating disposals with potential buyers.

Ross Mackinnon
Ross Mackinnon

“The decision ensures that the council will not achieve best value when disposing of these assets and could result in the council receiving millions of pounds less in receipts than would otherwise be the case.

“If they were dead set on selling, the commercially sensible option would be to instruct their agents to quietly test the market and explore disposals without giving away their position publicly.

“Within 12 hours the fire sale was advertised on the front page of the biggest commercial property newsletter in the world [Costar].

“I cannot think of anything more commercially damaging and naïve.”

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