But the public is split on whether councils should be investing in commercial properties in the first place
Central government funding to councils has been halved in real terms since 2010. One method by which councils are topping up their budgets is investing in commercial properties, everything from cinemas to shopping centres. In many cases these purchases are funded by borrowing.
However, regulatory bodies have warned that making investments disproportionate to resources is risky, and statutory guidance states that local authorities should not borrow "in advance of their needs purely in order to profit from the investment of extra sums borrowed."
A new YouGov poll produced in collaboration with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism suggests that although a considerable proportion of Britons are comfortable with local councils making investments into commercial properties, the vast majority believe these decisions should be made public.
Four in ten Brits are comfortable with local councils making commercial investments
Four in ten Britons (39%) are comfortable with local councils investing in commercial properties. A third (31%) are uncomfortable, with next to no difference in opinion across party political lines or Brexit voting patterns.
Those aged 65 and above are most likely to be opinionated on the issue, with four in ten (37%) saying they’re comfortable and another four in ten (41%) saying they’re uncomfortable.
From a regional perspective, Londoners are most likely to feel strongly about the issue. Just one in five (19%) did not express an opinion on whether investments made them comfortable, compared to a national average of one in three (30%).
Most think what is being bought, who is advising on the deal, and how it is being funded should be made public
On transparency, Britons are overwhelmingly likely to say the details around commercial investments should be made public: what land or property is being bought (80%), how it is being funded (82%), and any external consultants who are advising on the deal (78%).
Older generations are particularly likely to think it should be made public, with nine in ten (90%) saying so compared to three quarters (74%) of those aged 18 to 24. Again, politics does not seem to play a part in swaying people’s opinions on this issue, with Conservative, Labour, and Lib Dem voters within six percentage points of each other in their support for transparency on all counts.