Birmingham council looks to sell assets

BIRMINGHAM council leaders are in talks with Middle East sovereign funds, hoping to plug a budget hole by selling a number of trophy assets owned by the city.

The council is looking for ways to fund big capital projects at a time when the coalition government is demanding deep spending cuts.

Town halls around the country are currently drawing up proposals to cut spending by up to 30 per cent in anticipation of the government’s comprehensive spending review next month.

Birmingham is now seeking private investment to complete its Beorma quarter development, the latest phase in the regeneration of the city centre, and has attracted about £200m from Kuwaiti lead developer Salhia International Investments.

Plans to knock down and relocate the main library and redevelop the site in the heart of the city have also caught the eye of Middle Eastern investors.

Among the assets that could be sold is the National Exhibition Centre (NEC), as well as the council’s 19 per cent stake in Birmingham Airport and some of the city’s social housing, valued at around £2bn.

Mike Whitby, Conservative party leader of Birmingham city council said he was talking with the Abu Dhabi government as well as a number of sovereign wealth funds.

“We would allow them to be in partnership with our assets including the National Indoor Arena (NIA), the Symphony Hall, the International Convention Centre (ICC) and the NEC,” Whitby said.

The NEC Group, which includes the NIA and ICC, made a profit of almost £30m. One Conservative councillor said the council could also sell its 19 per cent stake in Birmingham international airport.