THE one ‘constant’ in Warrington Borough Council’s practice of borrowing money for property investment has been the reason for it.

Deputy leader Cllr Cathy Mitchell has left us in no doubt of that.

The message has been that it is simply to generate income, because Warrington has been ‘starved of Government funding’.

‘Buying property is stopping cuts in services’ ran one headline above her words in the Guardian.

But suddenly everything seems to have changed.

In a statement she issued on December 21, Cllr Mitchell stated ‘our investments... are very much done to support the council’s policies’.

She went on to refer to their help with business rates, job creation, reduction in fuel poverty and addressing climate change.

Only then did Cllr Mitchell say that ‘all of these initiatives have an additional benefit that they make a financial return to the council too’.

So income generation is no longer the prime purpose?

I wonder what prompted this ‘reverse ferret’ as Private Eye magazine might call it?

Could it be anything to do with the recent refusal by the Public Works Loans Board to lend money to local authorities for the purchase of commercial properties if the aim is purely for income generation?

Or perhaps the statement by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy about its Prudential Code?

This prohibits borrowing – from any source – by local authorities purely for commercial yield, and is mandatory for its members, of which Lynton Green, Warrington’s deputy chief executive, is one.

Is the council trying to ‘dress up’ its policy differently just to get round these difficulties?