MONMOUTHSHIRE County Council’s growing interest in purchasing private developments is necessary to fund frontline services, a senior councillor has said.

The authority has set up a £50 million commercial investment fund having expanded its property portfolio in recent years.

Councillor Phil Murphy, cabinet member for resources, said the strategy showed that the council was adapting to challenges caused by reduced funding from Welsh Government.

But Councillor Paul Pavia, chair of the economy and development select committee, raised concerns that the council could be being “too commercially minded” while it plans to increase council tax.

“There’s going to be members of the public asking why the council is focusing on purchasing additional assets, and saying shouldn’t they be focusing on public services,” said the Conservative councillor.

Councillor Paul Pavia

In October, a £7 million deal was struck to acquire the CastleGate Business Park in Caldicot, where plans have already been approved for a pub and four shops to complement existing businesses.

READ MORE: Council buys Caldicot's CastleGate business park in £7m deal

Other investments include the £5 million livestock market near Raglan and the £4.5 million Oak Grove solar farm in Crick, which was purchased using the Welsh Government’s ‘Invest to Save Green’ growth fund.

The council is also considering bringing staff based at Innovation House near Magor back to County Hall and renting out the office space for extra income.


When asked to give a message to concerned residents, Cllr Murphy said: “It’s quite straightforward – in the absence of funding from Welsh Government, we either have to get it from increasing council tax and charges or get it from somewhere else.

“The commercial developments that we are engaging in give us substantial returns and we’re using those to support frontline services. If we don’t do that, you lose them.”

Councillor Phil Murphy

Cllr Pavia questioned if the council should focus on upgrading and repairing existing assets, citing “substantial” maintenance costs.

He asked: “I know the importance the cabinet have put on CastleGate and renting opportunities [at Innovation House] but again, are we going away from what local authorities should be there for and delivering public services?”

Labour councillor Armand Watts added: “It’s about a balance and whether or not we’re a public service provider and where we go then as far as being entrepreneurial and showing some innovation in the commercial market.”

But Cllr Murphy warned that public services would be curtailed or even disappear if new methods of income remain unexplored.

“Local authorities that aren’t adapting to current circumstances are dying, and we don’t intend to die,” he said.

“This notion of what a local authority should be has to go because local authorities can’t be like that anymore.”