For years everyone has complained about the decline in Merseyway shopping centre, and for years the Council has been unable to act, with the centre in private ownership.
Now, for the first time, we have the opportunity to not only bring Merseyway up to date but to do in a way that doesn’t cost council taxpayers a penny and actually brings money in to the council – meaning that we expect to be able to put more money into council services in future.
Stockport Council has bought the Merseyway shopping centre, and plans to spend nearly £40m upgrading it to a modern centre that the town can be proud of. It’s a plan the Lib Dem Executive have been working on for some time, and to see the deal goes through we’ve had to keep it under wraps.
The purchase – including the improvements – is an investment for the people of Stockport. The numbers have been crunched and we’re confident it will provide a good return. It will make money for Stockport in future years, helping offset the cuts we have to make.
But it’s much more than that. When Merseyway first opened it was cutting edge – people came from all over to marvel at it. But decades of under-investment in the hands of private owners have seen it fall behind. The opportunity for the Council to buy the centre came up and, had we not taken it, we believe there was a big risk that the decline would continue.
The Council now – for the first time – has the ability to shape the town centre. The Redrock cinema complex, improvements in Princes Street, Debenhams freehold, Mersey Square, Merseyway, Stockport Exchange and large parts of the Old Town (Marketplace and Underbanks) are now in the control of the council. We want to get them working together to improve Stockport, and provide that return on investment to council taxpayers.
It also gives us more opportunities to review the proposals for the marketplace and see if the council’s ownership of Merseyway along with the marketplace can help.
We know we can’t fix the town centre overnight, but we now have the tools to really make a major difference over the next few years.
Whenever the Council makes a large investment of this sort, people – quite reasonably – ask where the money is coming from and why it’s not being spent to stop the cuts.
The answer is:
- The money comes from borrowing (which the council can do cheaply) and reserves. By law, the council can’t borrow to fund day-to-day costs but it can borrow to fund this sort of investment.
- As we face more and more cuts from the Government, the Council needs to find new ways to raise revenue. Making investments in property that generate a return is one way to bring in extra money that we can use to avoid making so many cuts in our day-to-day spending. Our aim is to follow this strategy – it allows the Council to bring in more money. We want more money from property investments and less money from tax rises.