THE ways of local government can indeed seem bizarre as with the news this week that North Yorkshire County Council has bought a bank.

The revelations came when Councillor Gareth Dadd gave his financial report at this weeks county council meeting. Facing austere times and the government axing millions of pounds from budgets the authority set up a Commercial Investment Board. Indeed they have been encouraged to do this by the government to take advantage of possibilities to make cash and hopefully relieve the burden on taxpayers. So NYCC decided to go down the property investment route. Their first purchase is a freehold spot in Stafford, currently used as a bank. The cost £850,000 with a return apparently of 4.53 per cent.

As Cllr Dadd pointed out this is a significant improvement on the current return on their cash portfolio which is just 0.61 per cent. So Spectator can see it all seems very astute, it just seems a long way from the day job, wasn't the whole point of a local authority to oversee public services?But then if a profit is to be made maybe putting it into the public purse is no bad thing.

Times are so hard the council has had to take a long hard look at it's own bricks and mortar, and a major shake up of property in the heart of Northallerton is planned.

Cllr Dadd also revealed they had even looked at the disposal of County Hall. The Grade 11 listed Walter Brierly building which was named after the architect who designed it was built in 1906 for £33,000. But when they examined replacing it with a modern purpose built headquarters with civic, office and meeting spaces it was going to cost £40 to £50 million so hanging on was deemed to be the most cost effective thing to do.