Political leaflets are not subject to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) requirements that adverts are legal, decent, honest and truthful.

But you can check out the Facts here.

If you get any leaflets with statements or allegations you doubt, send them over and I will gladly Fact-Check them for you.


Claim: ‘The Council’s property speculations have created a total debt of £160 million, with annual interest payments of £4.6m. By contrast, the income generated from the SHBC-owned retail premisies is only £2.9m.’

Fact-Check : Surrey Heath’s property investments include not only The Town Centre aka The Mall/SQ, but also St George’s Industrial Estate, Ashwood House, London Road, Albany Park, Trade City, Vulvcan Industrial Estate, Theta.

Comparing the interest payments for all the Council’s borrowing with the income from only the retail part of the portfolio is misleading and dishonest.

Like a crooked landlord claiming  all the tax relief for mortgage interest  but only declaring some of the rental income on his tax return,

The figures in the February 2023 budget 2 (see Sections 8.4 & 8.5) for 2023-24 are:

Rental Income:
Retail £2.9m
Commercial £3.6m
Office £0.1m
Total Rental Income £6.6m
Interest payments £4.2m

The reality is that far the rental income from property investments generates a surplus of > £2m operating profit, without which non-statutory services would need to be reduced. These services include:

  • Camberley Theatre
  • Surrey Heath Museum
  • Comedy Festival
  • Grass cutting in parks
  • Dog poo bins
  • Toilets
  • Children’s playgrounds & outdoor exercise equipment
  • Meals at home
  • Community transport
  • Community centres
  • Telecare
  • Planning Enforcement
  • Corporate enforcement
  • Council Tax Support Scheme
  • The Hope Hub homeless charity
  • Charity grants
  • Discounted rents for charity tenants

Residents may wish to ask those who believe SHBC should get out of property ownership, exactly which services they plan to cut?


There have been various posts and claims made in the last few years claiming that retail property investments made by SHBC in 2016 have ‘lost’ money and burdened the Council with  debt.

Claims have been made that the Council paid too much, bought at the wrong time just as internet shopping was taking off, and has ‘lost’ money.

The Facts

The Mall shopping centre was originally developed in the 1980s by Capital & Regional (C&R), who remained the owners.

In 2006/7 plans to refurbish the Mall were developed in partnership with C&R and the Council, but these plans did not move forward.

In 2012 the Council forged a partnership with C&R and John Lewis, with the objective of John Lewis establishing a store in Camberley.

In 2015 the partnership collapsed when John Lewis withdrew their interest, and C&R put forward alternative plans, however the Council felt these did not reflect their ambitions, and began to consider the idea of regenerating Camberley town centre themselves.

It was against this background that the Council entered negotiations with C&R in 2016 to buy the Mall and other town centre sites so that the Council could control the regeneration. The Council’s property advisors, Montagu Evans, provided due diligence during the negotiations.

Price Paid

The Council were the only party negotiating with C&R, so there was no competitive market pressure upwards on the price from other interested parties. At the same time, the Council were only interested in Camberley Town Centre, so there was no negotiating leverage to exert downward pressure on the price as a result of SHBC considering other locations for investment.

An independent review by Avison Young concluded that the Council ‘had not paid over the odds’. The review can be viewed here (Item 7/PF).

The properties purchased in 2016 broke down as follows:

Shopping Centre £77.85m
London Road £1.95m
Allders Site £2.50m
Marriage Value (increase in value as a result of lease extension) £1.70m
Stamp Duty savings (shared savings as result of acquisition via property unit trust) £2.00m
Sub-Total £86m
Park Street & Princess Way £17.6m
Total £103.6m


The purchases were financed by borrowing.  The Council borrows from the Public Works Loan Board (PWLB), a government agency that lends to Local Authorities, or from other Local Authorities. These loan rates are competitive, the total interest paid in 2020-21 on £180m of debt was £1.7m, i.e. < 1% pa.

Income from investment

It is also worth noting that, whilst the property purchases were primarily made to enable the regeneration of Camberley, they have also made a significant contribution to the Council’s finances since purchase. At the time of purchase, the properties that cost £86m were delivering a rental income of £5.5m pa1, a gross yield of 6.4%, significantly more than the loan costs, which has allowed a £7m reserve to be built up2. This rental income has been impacted as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic.

In the Council’s accounts the contribution of rental income comes under ‘Investment and Development’. In 2021/22 the overall contribution from ‘Investment and Development’ was £1.2m3, with budgets forecast for current4 and future5 years as follows:

Year Investment and development contribution to Council finances
2022/23 £1.4m
2023/24 £0.9m
2024/25 £1.5m
2025/26 £1.4m
2026/27 £1.4m

Without this contribution to the budget, services would need to be cut or Council Tax increased.


Is it true that the Mall was bought ‘just when retail trends moved away from town centres towards internet shopping’?

The graph below suggests that this is not the case. The trend towards internet shopping did not begin in 2016, but has been a continuous one since the ONS began publishing the data in 2007, with an inflection point in 2018-19:

Long-term view

The properties are long-term investments and are amortised in the accounts over 50 years. It is worth noting that in the 50 years to 2016 there have been several economic cycles:

There will be be several more economic cycles between now and 2066, during which commercial property values will fluctuate.

Stuart Black, June 2022, updated February 2023, April 2023.


  1. https://surreyheath.moderngov.co.uk/documents/s22983/08a%20Property%20Investment%20Task%20and%20Finish%20Group%20Covering%20Report.pdf para 5.7
  2. https://surreyheath.moderngov.co.uk/documents/s29381/08a%20Budget%20Setting%20MTFS.pdf para 8.6
  3. https://surreyheath.moderngov.co.uk/documents/s27358/End%20of%20Year%20Finance%20and%20Budget%20Outturn.pdf para 1.4
  4. https://surreyheath.moderngov.co.uk/documents/s28519/06a%20Revenue%20Budget%20Half%20Year%20Update%20Report.pdf para 1.3
  5. https://surreyheath.moderngov.co.uk/documents/s29381/08a%20Budget%20Setting%20MTFS.pdf para 2.5