Latest accounts reveal ups and downs for council company Arch

Northumberland County Council's HQ in Morpeth.
Northumberland County Council's HQ in Morpeth.

The latest set of accounts for Northumberland County Council’s development company Arch, covering the year in which the authority’s leadership changed, has now been published.

Under the Conservative administration, Arch has now been dissolved and been replaced by Advance Northumberland, but its latest official accounts, for the year ending March 31, 2018, have recently been lodged with Companies House.

They show that the period of ‘significant growth within the group’ continued last year, with turnover increasing from £22.4million to £36.1million and gross profit up to £22million from £16.7million in 2016-17.

However, overall the company recorded a loss of £4.4million, compared to a £5.5million profit the previous year, while shareholder funds – the amount of equity in a company, in this case belonging to the county council as sole shareholder – dropped from £59.7million to £55miilion.

This ‘significant decrease’ is down to three factors – the £9.6million fall from a revaluation of the investment portfolio, a £0.3million drop in the capital contribution from the county council and an increase in the group’s profit and loss reserve of £5.2million.

The largest figure in Arch’s accounts once again – and among the issues to cause concern for critics of the controversial company – is the amount of credit; £12.4million due within one year and £280.9million of longer-term borrowing, of which £275million is owed to the county council.

The statement of accounts also, of course, mentions the transition to new company Advance Northumberland, which it says ‘is not expecting to invest in more executive homes, but is likely to look towards a greater emphasis on more affordable-housing schemes’.

It adds: ‘There will be a reduced focus on retail investment but continued emphasis on industrial and commercial infrastructure, which will deliver more jobs in Northumberland.’

Last year, the company’s economic growth team ‘contributed to the leverage of £25.48million private-sector investment into Northumberland and the creation of more than 230 new jobs’.

In 2017-18, Arch once again made a £1million charitable contribution to Active Northumberland, the arm’s-length organisation which manages the council’s leisure services.

Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service