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Council chief hits back in £4m Old Trafford hotel loan row

The leader of Trafford council has fought back after criticism over a potential £4m loan to Lancashire County Cricket Club for a new hotel.

The club announced that following a £5m cash injection, the plan for the four-star 150 bedroom hotel, replacing the current one at the Emirates Old Trafford, had moved a step closer.

Bosses say the £12m project will create £1m-worth of employment a year and bring in an extra £2.3m.

Greater Manchester’s combined authority has agreed to provide the £5m loan.

But the plan hinges on another loan, for £4m, from Trafford town hall. The club has already secured the remaining £3m.

Council bosses say the loan will be secured by the town hall at a preferential rate, before the cash is passed on to the cricket club.

It will be paid back, along with the combined authority loan, with interest, by 2021.

A decision will be made by the council at the end of the month.

Opposition Labour leader Andrew Western has expressed ‘concern’ over the arrangement, arguing that the council should not be taking out loans for private businesses in times of austerity.

In 2013, the council gave the club financial backing of £21m for a regeneration project by selling land to supermarket giant Tesco.

Trafford council leader Sean Anstee

Tesco bosses, struggling to secure planning permission for an extension of their Stretford store, offered to buy an unused plot at a nearby high school for £20m more than its worth – if the cash was ring-fenced for the cricket club.

The land-deal was met with fury by Labour councillors.

Coun Western said: “Once again, the council finds itself in the position of being asked to provide financial support to Lancashire County Cricket Club just a few years after gifting some £21m to the club to furnish its recent redevelopment.

“Although I appreciate that on this occasion, we would be talking about a loan rather than a gift, it does concern me that a private business should need to come to the council once more for assistance.

“If this proposal is as sound as is being suggested, the club would be able to source a bank loan for the amount required independently.

“I do not believe the council should be expected to help them out to the tune of millions of pounds yet again at a time of continued austerity.

“I would much rather see investment in the local economy used to support small and medium-sized enterprises who are struggling to access lending in what continues to be a difficult financial climate.”

The council has to cut £21.5m from the books this year.

Leader Sean Anstee said the project will create nearly 80 jobs and bring in an extra £2.3m a year for the borough.

He highlighted that the town hall will make money thanks to interest on the loan, and that council borrowing cannot be used to mitigate service cuts.

Coun Anstee, who also highlighted that the plan is backed by Labour leaders across the region, added: “The choice isn’t whether we want to borrow to fund services.

“It’s whether we use prudential borrowing to support and boost growth. We can continue in austerity and do nothing; or we can choose to lend this money, create jobs and bring an extra £2.3m in. This will cost the taxpayer nothing.”

Lib Dem leader Ray Bowker described the deal as a ‘win-win-win’.

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Council chief hits back in £4m Old Trafford hotel loan row

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