WARRINGTON North MP Helen has questioned the morals of Labour controlled Warrington Borough Council’s purchase of Birchwood Park through an off-shore company to avoid paying around £10m in tax.
She has written to the council urging them to ‘think again’ about the way they have purchased Birchwood Park, saying it is contrary to Labour Party Policy.
Ms Jones said:“ While I recognise that councils are having to find new ways of raising money, I have reservations about this deal. I have no doubt it will raise funds in the short-term but buying property which is all in one place and paying more than the valuation does not provide sufficient hedge against future changes in markets. That, however, is a matter for the council.
“ What concerns me even more is that this deal is being done through an off-shore company to avoid around £10 million in tax. This is not illegal but it is, in my view, morally questionable. What is more, it is contrary to Labour Party policy.
“ Our policy is to clamp down on tax havens and to root out tax avoidance. As the Shadow Chancellor has said, ‘tax avoidance is a scourge on society.’
“ For a tax-collecting authority to take this course is very unwise. I understand that councillors have said that the money is better in the borough’s pocket than the government’s. What would they say to a council tax payer who says that their council tax is better kept in their pockets than given to the council?
“ None of us get to decide whether we pay our tax according to which party is in government. Paying tax is the price we pay for a civilised society. Not paying your dues sets a very bad example and I hope the council will think again and immediately activate the option which would bring the ownership into the UK. “
Warrington Borough Council has purchased Birchwood Park from Oaktree Capital Management in a deal believed to be worth over £200m.
It is one of a number of property investments the council has started to make since experiencing government cuts of more than £90million since 2010, with the council having to save an additional £30million by 2020.
Property acquisition, led by Warrington & Co, has become a cornerstone of the council’s investment strategy as it seeks to find the revenue to protect residents from the worst of the cuts.
The council will retain the services of the business park’s existing facilities management company Patrizia.
The council declined to comment on Ms Jones’ question to “think again.”