MILLIONS of pounds were spent by a council on “potentially risky” property investments across the UK.

Worthing Borough Council paid out more than £25 million on leases for three buildings across the country in a bid to shore up its finances.

A Freedom of Information request revealed the council bought properties in Reading, Fareham and Abingdon-on-Thames between last July and this January.

Finance expert Don Peebles, of the Chartered Institute for Public Finances and Accountancy, said commercial investments “often do not sit well” with councils’ responsibilities to deliver local services.

And council opposition leader Councillor Beccy Cooper said she was concerned about the risk the investments created.

But council leader Dan Humphreys said the investments were necessary because of Government funding cuts.

In a series of purchases, the council bought three office blocks. It spent £9.6 million a 250-year lease for Building One in Abingdon-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, in July last year.

Then it bought the Matchtech building in Fareham, Hampshire, outright for £4.3 million in November.

Two months later the borough council signed a 999-year lease on the Beta Building in Reading, Berkshire, for £11.24 million.

Borough council leader Cllr Humphreys said it had invested responsibly in order to fund local services.

“Before, the council received millions in revenue support grant from central Government,” the Conservative said.

“But to reduce the deficit the Government cut this funding and gave councils the power to generate money by investing.

“We decided to go ahead and do this in a prudent way.

“The amount of rent we generate from these investments will grow in the long term.”

Cllr Cooper agreed Government funding cuts were making it more difficult for councils. Revenue support grant, the main Government grant for councils, is expected to disappear for Worthing Borough Council by next year.

But Cllr Cooper raised concerns over the investments’ risk.

She said: “The Worthing Labour Group have recently expressed our concerns about the risk this property bubble could pose to our council going forward.

“Since 2010, local authorities have had more than half of their funding from central government cut.

“More councils are forced to speculate in the property market just to raise enough.”