COUNCIL leader David Hodge has hit back at claims millions raised from buying up warehouses, cinemas and retail units outside of the county is not being used to fund services in Surrey.

Surrey County Council (SCC) has generated £3.9m net income from various commercial property acquisitions bought by the council and the Halsey Garton Property group (HGP).

Critics feared that none of the income raised from these investments was being spent on council services.

 But at a cabinet meeting on April 24, Cllr Hodge said money raised from the investments is being pumped back into frontline services. The assurances came as he and cabinet colleagues delivered a budget out-turn highlighting a challenging three years ahead, as they need to make £250m savings.

Directing his comments at opposition councillors in the room, Cllr Hodge said: “Let’s just clarify the point that some of our members on the opposition don’t understand that the money being raised with our investment processes are actually being used for frontline services.

“I’m hoping that the members who are in the building and in the room today will really understand that and not ask the question again.”

Lib Dem leader Cllr Hazel Watson had earlier highlighted that SCC had transferred £3.9m rental income from the properties owned by the council and HGP group into its Revolving Infrastructure and Investment Fund, which is used to support the purchasing of commercial property.

Cllr Tom Oliver, cabinet member for property and business services, said this would now change. He said: “At the end of the day this is all one big pot of money that the council access to deliver its services, but going forward this municipal year we will transfer it to the Budget Equalisation Reserve so there can be no dispute that that money will be used to support our frontline services.”

Properties held by SCC include a High Street shop in Kingfisher House, Egham, and Abbey Moor Golf Course in Chertsey. Meanwhile assets held by HGP include a warehouse in Bristol and a cinema in Stratford.