EAST Lancashire’s councils raised more than £20million by selling off land and buildings between 2014 and 2018.

But they could not spend the cash how they liked.

Lancashire County Council raised at least £34m through asset sales using £24.2m to redesign services.

Not all the cash raised actually came to the local authorities and there are strict government rules preventing its use for everyday spending or subsidising council tax bills. It has to be spent on capital projects, paying off debt or ‘transforming services’.

According to Freedom of Information requests by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, Blackburn with Darwen Council raised £10.3m.

This included the single biggest receipt of £9.1m for the sale of the new office block in Blackburn town centre’s new Cathedral Quarter to investment giant Legal and General in 2015.

Borough finance boss Cllr Andy Kay explained the council only made s small profit as most of the cash had to be repaid to developer The Eric Wright Group for construction costs and to other investors in the scheme including the government’s Housing and Communities Agency and the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership.

Other big receipts were £690,000 for land on Cunliffe Road, Blackburn, to keep a business in the borough and the sale of land at Shorey Bank in Darwen for a retirement village.

Cllr Kay said: “Asset sales can benefit the council and help businesses in the borough to the benefit of local people.”

Burnley Council raised £3.5m by selling 112 assets including two plots of land in the Weavers' Triangle for £300,000 each to support its redevelopment.

Hyndburn generated £1.7m from 20 sales, including £732,219 as a downpayment from part of the former Lyndon Playing Fields in Great Harwood which will continue to generate the council cash as the developer sells homes in the future.

It also sold Deveron Mill in the town for £600,000 which Hyndburn Council leader Cllr Miles Parkinson said would enable the new owner to renovate and refurbish it for local businesses.

Pendle raised £3.6m from 138 assets and Rossendale £418,796 from 11 sales.

Lancashire County Council declined to answer the FoI request but its records revealed that between April 1 2014 and March 31 this year it expects to have raised £34.3m of which £24.2m will have been spent on service transformation.

Ribble Valley Borough Council also declined to answer the FoI request.

Burnley Council’s resources boss Cllr Sue Graham said: “Careful selling of land and buildings, as with the Weavers Triangle, can benefit the council and the regeneration of the borough.”

A county council spokesman said: “The FoI request was refused because of the length of time it would have taken staff to collate the information.”