COUNCILLORS have been told Town Hall chiefs are investing millions of pounds outside the town to ‘diversify’ the borough’s property portfolio.

The matter was discussed during the audit and corporate governance committee meeting on Thursday.

Members were informed the Labour-run authority’s property portfolio is performing ‘very well’, particularly Birchwood Park, which it bought for £211 million in September 2017.

As reported in July, the council previously approved deals to buy the property home to the Tesco superstore in Farnworth, Bolton, as well as the Asda superstore in Hulme, Manchester, which is also home to other leading names including Poundstretcher, Argos and KFC.

It is understood the Tesco site was bought for in the region of £40 million.

But former council leader Cllr Ian Marks (LD – Lymm North and Thelwall) highlighted ‘public perception’ over the issue.

He said residents found those two investments ‘difficult to understand’.

“In terms of public perception, it is seen as very a strange thing for a council such as ours to do,” he added.

“If it was Asda and Tesco in Warrington that might be a bit more understandable but these other places, albeit in the region, people do find it very difficult to understand why we are doing this.”

The council insists commercial properties are being bought in an attempt to offset the impact of cuts by boosting income through rent.

The council’s finance team said there is an ‘ongoing debate’ over whether local authorities should be investing outside their area, although ‘many do it’.

But it said one of the reasons for doing it is for ‘diversification’.

It added that if Warrington’s economy went into recession, there is a risk of losing money if its property portfolio is not ‘diversified’ through investing outside the borough.