Two cash-strapped councils in the Black Country and Staffordshire have made almost £60 million from selling off council-owned land over the last four years, the Express & Star can reveal.
Staffordshire County Council has made £48,093,554.15 from the sale of 135 plots of land since April 2013, while Wolverhampton City Council has raked in £21,249,231.69 from 83 plots.
The figures have been revealed following Freedom Of Information requests. It comes as both authorities have made cuts to services following reduced funding from central government.
The land has made way for houses and business developments. But council bosses say strict regulations govern how they can spend the money.
The highest earning plot of land for Staffordshire County Council was Watery Lane, in Codsall, which was sold off for housing on July 14 for £11,790,915.
Meanwhile in Wolverhampton, the highest earning plot sold was the former playing fields and the Jennie Lee Centre, located on Lakefield Road, in Wednesfield, which fetched £4,214,423.82 in 2015. That also made way for housing.
Council bosses in Staffordshire said money made from sales will be invested in building new schools and developing roads.
Ian Parry, Deputy Leader of Staffordshire County Council and cabinet member for Finance, said: “We have been taking a fresh look at our assets and marketing those we no longer have use for to support new jobs, homes, healthcare and wider investment in Staffordshire.
“Money raised from land sales since 2013 has been put towards building schools, roads, superfast broadband and extra care facilities, as well as creating industrial estates such as i54 South Staffordshire, Redhill in Stafford and Liberty Park in Lichfield to attract and safeguard new and existing jobs for the benefit of residents.”
Councillor Susan Woodward, leader of the opposition at the council said: "These figures show just how difficult it is for the current administration to balance the books. The problem with selling off land is that once the land is sold, it is gone."
Staffordshire County Council has just signed off controversial funding cuts to services including drug and alcohol support.
Meanwhile in Wolverhampton, the authority is going through tough funding cuts from central government and has reduced spending to services such as to tips, car parks and roads.
Councillor Andrew Johnson, cabinet member for resources, said: “Money raised from the sale of land or property which are surplus to requirements – known as capital receipts - can only be used for very specific purposes as laid out by legislation."
But Councillor Wendy Thompson, opposition leader, of the Conservative group in Wolverhampton, said: "There is a need for housing and business development. But what concerns me is the sale of football pitches.
"I know substitute pitches are in place, but they are placed further from communities, which in particular affects younger people who have to travel further."Subscribe to our Newsletter