Newham Council splurged £91.5m on five properties hundreds of miles away in a series of back-room decisions last year, an investigation has found.
Between August and December 2017 the local authority bought a string of office, retail and distribution sites from Surrey to West Yorkshire.
The council has recently been rapped by its own external auditor over the arrangements, none of which were made public or scrutinised by the full cabinet.
Research by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism has found this is part of a wider trend in England, where the number of local authorities “gambling” on the property market to support flagging income has risen sharply in 2017/18.
But Newham spent by far the most of any local authority in London, and the seventh most in England – without making taxpayers aware.
In their annual report to the council dated November 9, auditors from Ernst & Young raised concerns about the practice a full year after the £91.5m was spent.
Ernst & Young flagged up the council’s valuation of its investment properties as a “serious risk”, adding that they were not yet “comfortable” that the given values were correct.
They said: “Five investments totalling £90 million were made under the delegated authority for decision-making and as such were not reviewed by full cabinet.
“Whilst we have not identified any significant issues with the governance arrangements, the council should consider whether delegated authority for such decisions is appropriate.”
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Source: Newham Recorder