MORE than half a million pounds of West Berkshire taxpayers' money on investment advice for properties almost 200 miles away from the district.

Since 2017, West Berkshire Council has spent £502,150.29 on property consultants to help the council choose which shops, warehouses and offices to buy.

Most of the money spent on consultants went to Montague Evans, who have received £494,650.29. Jones Lang LaSalle received £7,500. The numbers were obtained following a freedom of information request.

Most of the properties are far away from West Berkshire, for example two supermarkets in North Yorkshire. 

READ MORE: West Berks takes out £100m debt to invest in commercial property

But the council should be investing in local housing and businesses, according to Councillor Jeff Brooks (Lib Dem, Thatcham West). 

He said: “These may not achieve the same returns but would provide social gain to West Berkshire residents in terms of our local economy and housing stock."

As more big shops on the high street are struggling, Cllr Brooks also questioned whether the retail sector was a prudent investment at this time. 

He said: “Retail developments may not look as attractive in future years or continue with the same yield as expected.” 

WBC spent £8.57 million on two town centre shops in Lincoln, as well as £9.2 million on a warehouse in Chippenham and £17.76 million on offices in Newbury Business Park. 

The council has taken out £100 million debt to finance the purchases, and hopes to use £2 million rent from tenants each year to spend on public services. 

Peta Stoddart-Crompton, a WBC spokeswoman, said: “Given that the council has acquired £58,677,000 of assets, the total fee to date represents 0.84 per cent, which is good value for money.” 

Many councils across the UK, including Reading Borough, are investing in commercial real estate, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism recently revealed.

Councils have been forced to look elsewhere for funding as, since 2010, the government has cut 60p out of every £1 for local public services, according to the Local Government Association.