THE council made more than £4m by selling land and property over the last five years.

At least 36 assets were sold by the local authority since April 2014 adding millions of pounds to its capital budget.

The single largest sale was of the former Warthfield care home site in Ribchester Drive which was purchased by Morris Homes for £1.158m in October 2014.

Fernhill Depot, home to the council's highways and ground maintenance services before they moved to Bradley Fold, was sold for £470,000 six months earlier.

Former council offices and admin buildings such as Athenaeum House and Castle Buildings also generated hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Research by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism found that councils raised a total of £9.1bn since 2013 by selling thousands of public spaces such as libraries, community centres and playgrounds.

The data obtained by Freedom of Information requests found that Bury Council sold 36 assets since the 2014/15.

However, in December 2017 a council report stated that 26 properties had been sold off in that financial year alone.

Earlier that year, a group of open spaces were put up for sale by the council including land in Radcliffe, Tottington and Prestwich.

A total of 14 plots of land were on sale representing approximately 10,638 sq m of land across the borough.

Some councils elsewhere are using the money generated from these sales to pay for hundreds of redundancies, including in vital frontline services.

This follows government changes to rules on council spending that allow for more flexibility to help balance budgets.

However, in Bury, town hall chiefs have reinvested these capital receipts into other projects, according to cabinet member for housing and finance Eamonn O'Brien.

He said: “We want to prioritise the use of any capital receipts into investing in communities and investing in our regeneration and growth ambitions."

The Prestwich councillor listed a number of capital projects which the council is currently investing in.

This includes improving car parking in Ramsbottom, investing in Radcliffe town centre and giving money directly to community groups through the social capital fund.

He added: “We believe this is a more appropriate way of using our capital rather than propping up revenue budgets."

Last month, the council revealed its plans for the final year of a three-year budget in which more than £5m of earmarked reserves will be used.

This will help the local authority in a financial year when it has to make £11.9m in cuts.

Cllr O'Brien said that the council is committed not to use reserves to balance the budget the following year.

He said: "What we have said is that any use of reserves, capital receipts or otherwise will only be used if there’s a clear plan to not rely on them in future years."

The leading councillor said that Bury Council has no intentions to use land sales for its revenue budget.