District council is not investing in arms trade, say councillors

Councillor Neil Reeve of Uttlesford District Council

Councillor Neil Reeve of Uttlesford District Council - Credit: Residents For Uttlesford

Uttlesford District Council is not investing in the arms trade but "false rumours are being spread by political agitators" according to political group Residents for Uttlesford (R4U).

Councillors Neil Reeve and Neil Hargreaves have robustly rejected the claims about property investments. They have suggested that misinformation is being spread for political reasons, as local elections are taking place in May.

Their comments come after public meetings in which concerns were raised about "investment opportunity 12". The investment is for land and creating a new building in Gloucestershire and renting it out. The prospective tenant was named at a full council meeting as Moog Inc by a member of the public.

Uttlesford District Council has said the company’s use of the new building, which will be owned by the council, will be as a global facility for research, development and manufacturing, specifically for the aircraft control components sector.

They have said that commercial purchases are made using fixed rate loans. The loans are then repaid from the rent income.

Cllr Reeve, portfolio holder for Economy, Investment and Corporate Strategy, said: “To generate income which funds core services, councils can buy and let commercial property, and UDC is no exception. There have been recent public statements to suggest that UDC is ‘investing in the arms trade’. This is untrue and it is not credible that a council would do so.”

He added: “These accusations revolve around one of UDC’s planned new tenants.

"The company in question is a 50-year-old UK engineering component manufacturer. It provides valves, hydraulic parts and control systems for many uses, including automotive, robotics, turbine/energy generation, general manufacturing, aerospace, and defence applications.

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"Many well-established companies, such as Land Rover, Rolls Royce, Siemens and Airbus, supply our country’s defence industry and forces, but that does not make them part of the ‘arms trade’.

"In turn these companies are supplied by many tens of thousands of component manufacturers, such as UDC’s planned tenant. It would be even more inaccurate to characterise these component suppliers as being ‘in the arms trade’, let alone any landlord.”

Councillor Neil Hargreaves of Uttlesford District Council

Councillor Neil Hargreaves of Uttlesford District Council - Credit: Residents For Uttlesford

Cllr Neil Hargreaves, portfolio holder for finance, said: “The false rumours are being spread by political agitators. It is difficult to understand why they are purposely choosing to misrepresent facts, although there are local elections in May."

Cllr Hargreaves said all property investments at UDC follow a robust process, go through the Investment Board and are voted on by councillors.

A number of people have raised questions about the investment, and a petition is on the council's website.