Brighton and Hove’s council leader has hit back at calls for the city council to sell its portfolio of 59 restaurants and cafes.
But council leader Warren Morgan said they allowed the council to manage the city’s tourism offering and support its economy.
The restaurants owned by the council include freeholds to high profile sites such as Al Fresco, the Brighton Bandstand cafe and Dr Brighton’s on the seafront, as well as dozens of cafes in parks and the King’s Arches.
Council leader Warren Morgan said: “We have 59 seafront cafes and restaurants that we lease out. This helps keep our seafront shop window vibrant by ensuring we have a buoyant economy in this popular area with the right mix of outlets.
“Of course it also contributes to our tourism offer, provides jobs and supports the council’s rental income and business rates. This in turn helps to keep council tax down and helps to subsidise essential services that we provide for our residents.
“The important aspect to remember is that by controlling who rents these properties means we can limit the numbers of different types of retail outlet whether that’s those selling alcohol or ice cream or beach items which we would not be able to do if they were in private hands.
“We do have clear asset management procedures that identify any properties that are surplus to requirements for disposal.
“But in the seafront area we support a vibrant economy along with scores of jobs and are constantly looking at ways of increasing investment opportunities to promote the special character of this important area of the city.”
Jonathan Isaby, Chief Executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “It looks deeply hypocritical for councils to plead poverty as an excuse for hiking council tax when they’ve got such a huge asset portfolio.
“Local authorities should be focussed on essential services. The time has come for a serious discussion on what councils should, and should not, be doing – a drastic rethink which saw many of these assets returned to the private sector where some of them clearly belong would be a dramatic step towards a balanced budget and protecting taxpayers.”