The Strand Shopping Centre in Bootle is set to make a £1.5 million loss in the next financial year.
In a report on the council’s website, the figure has been published as councillors prepare the budget for next year.
The council bought the Strand for £32.5million in 2017 in a move which was criticised by some local taxpayers and councillors.
There were claims that the money would have been better spent elsewhere and that the centre’s value had dropped since the council took over.
A spokesperson for Sefton Council said: “The pandemic has affected the whole retail sector, including the Strand, and due to continued uncertainty we have openly provided an update on potential scenarios for the current financial year 2020/21.
“Work is ongoing in respect of the Business Plan for future financial years, despite those uncertainties. At this stage an assumed loss of £1.5m for the financial year 2021/22 has been included in the Revenue and Capital Budget Plan, although this is dependent on economic conditions, the timing and nature of any restrictions relating to the pandemic, and the resulting circumstances for individual tenants. We will also continue to work with affected businesses, with continued focus on economic recovery and job retention.
“While we are working on what the long-term plans are for Bootle and the Strand, we’re looking at bringing in interim uses to the areas in and around the Strand. By bringing new and vibrant activity to places that are currently unused the Council can help to stimulate the local economy, transform the look and feel of the town for residents, businesses and visitors and improve the quality of life for local people.
“Work has begun on demolishing some of the existing buildings so we can make the land ready for these interim uses from this summer (pandemic permitting), and we’ve already started engaging with local people and other stakeholders, including local businesses, on how the space could be used, including the Bootle Festival of Ideas.
“The council plans to do lots more consultation and engagement work over the coming months and years (especially as we start to look ahead to the medium and long term plans) with a wide range of stakeholders from regular users of The Strand, existing tenants, local residents, the wider community and other interest groups within the town centre – all of whom have a role to play and an interest in the future of Bootle town centre. The Council’s purchase of the Strand enables all stakeholders to influence this process.”
Tony Brough, Leader of the Conservative Group on Sefton Council, has accused the council of a ‘secret meeting’ where they will discuss the future plans for the Strand.
He said: “The purchase of Bootle Strand has been a complete disaster. £32 million has been wasted purchasing a commercial property that had been estimated to have already lost £5 million in value, even before coronavirus struck.
“Sefton Labour Councillors continue to obscure the amount of money the site has lost and now, with a further secret meeting planned, seek to implement their future plans for the site without scrutiny.
“The fact that the meeting, cynically scheduled after the date of the local elections, is to discuss a ‘business plan’ is somewhat laughable given the lack of commercial acumen displayed so far.
“People in Southport and Sefton have a right to know how their money is being handled particularly before the local elections; how can the public make a decision if Labour Councillors choose to hide key information?”