Every council owns offices, shops, car parks, houses, land and leisure facilities. These are all assets worth hundreds of thousands – and sometimes millions – of pounds.

Councils across the UK own and operate many such assets to increase their revenue income.

In Brighton and Hove, there is one particular building which has become the source of much deliberation among readers of The Argus letters page – a building owned and operated by Brighton and Hove City Council. It is called King’s House, and occupies a corner location on the junction of Grand Avenue and Hove seafront.

It was built as seven Italianate-style mansion blocks in 1872.

It later became a hotel and, in 1947, Seeboard made the building its headquarters.

In 1974 it became grade II-listed. Brighton and Hove borough councils took it over as a preparatory move for when the two councils would merge to become a unitary authority.

More than one reader has remarked that this building could fetch quite a sum and be turned into upmarket flats with a sea view.

The money from selling it would have to be used to fund a capital project, such as new roads, schools, housing or leisure facilities.

Robert Nemeth, deputy chairman of Brighton and Hove Conservatives, believes he was the first person to suggest the council should consider moving out of King’s House.

He said: “I raised the idea when I first heard the Co-op was thinking about closing its flagship store in London Road.

“Bearing in mind the origins of King’s House as seven separate houses, such a building would be better-suited to residential use. More importantly though, council offices in the old Co-op building would complete the ongoing regeneration of London Road.

“Why not spend the millions of pounds that would be generated from selling King’s House to pay for the construction of an ambitious new sports facility on the King Alfred site?”

‘Desirable location’

Alan Pipes wrote a letter to The Argus in March on the subject.

He said: “I still think it’s a good idea. Does the council really need to be in such a desirable location as King’s House?”

Warren Morgan, deputy leader of the Labour and Co-operative Group in Brighton and Hove, said: “King’s House is clearly a high-value asset in a prime seafront location.

“In the present climate, with councils to expect five more years of harsh Government cuts, several far-sighted councils have already started to review their assets.

“The Greens should certainly look at this before passing on more cuts or increasing council tax.”

Mike Weatherley, Conservative MP for Hove, was less reserved in his judgement.

He said: “Using King’s House as luxurious council offices with sea views is a bad use of taxpayers’ money.

“I am fascinated by the idea of a move to the old Co-op building in London Road but also like the idea of using profits to build a new leisure centre in Hove.

“The council simply owns too many buildings. There are maintenance and administrative headaches, and this stifles the local economy.”

Phil Graves, of estate agent Graves Jenkins, is not in favour of turning King’s House into flats, but conceded it could fetch a princely sum.

He said: “King’s House has got to be worth tens of millions of pounds. It’s a great building. It’s a status symbol for the council, but I think it should stay.

“I remember when the council acquired it and felt it was certainly an astute acquisition.

“In terms of raising money, there are some other sites the council should seriously think about selling. It should be examining other assets and working them, making them sweat.”

Brighton and Hove City Council owns its fair share of freehold retail outlets in Brighton and Hove, including a portion of the northern side of Western Road.

Mr Graves added: “If it can’t make the property thing work, there are plenty of property professionals in the city who can.”

A Brighton and Hove City Council spokesman said: “We have no agreed plans to [vacate King’s House]. But the council constantly reviews its operational portfolio to ensure it is used in the best possible way.

“In terms of office accommodation, we have a programme to reduce the number of office buildings as part of a larger project to modernise the ways we work. The first two phases will save us about £800,000 and provide much-needed capital investment.”

Difficult to sell

The council also said it was looking at all its remaining administrative buildings. The other major asset buildings it owns for administrative use are Brighton Town Hall, Hove Town Hall, Portslade Town Hall and Bartholomew House.

Geoffrey Theobald, leader of the Conservatives on Brighton and Hove City Council, said these would be difficult to sell, but felt King’s House could attract “worthwhile interest” as it would be in demand as it overlooks the seafront.

He said: “I did suggest some years ago that the council look at the Legal & General offices in Hove Park and sell King’s House as it would be more efficient for staff to all be in the one building.”

Asked if he felt the council should look at the Co-op building in London Road as a new headquarters, he said: “Yes, I do think the council should look at the Co-op building, but it may be costly.

“Wherever the council is based, it will help businesses in the immediate area as staff will visit shops and restaurants.

“The council should always be looking to raise capital income by selling assets that aren’t required.”

What do you think? Should councils be selling their assets, or is that just selling off the family jewels?