Essex County Council has spent £34 million buying commercial properties outside of the county over the past 16 months, it can be revealed.

At the same time as County Hall has announced plans to shut 25 libraries across Essex and reduce services at 19 others in a move to save £2 million a year, a report shows bosses authorised the purchase of three commercial properties.

The properties - an office block in Watford, a retail park in Keighley, Yorkshire, and an industrial park in Guildford - have so far earned the authority a £1 million net income.

Although there is still about £16 million in the investment kitty, authority bosses have been advised to stop spending by its independent financial advisors Hymans Robertson due to the potential affects of the country leaving the European Union in March.

However, County Hall insists it remains committed to the fund and says it will look for “prime established assets of value between £3 million to £15 million” going forward.

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A spokesman for Essex County Council said its commercial property strategy was not linked to services such as libraries.

She said: “We continue to explore opportunities to develop sustainable income streams to help fund ongoing and new services.

“If we can secure alternative sources of income then we will be financially more sustainable.

“One way of doing this is investment in the property fund to generate additional income which can then be invested in our front line services.

“This investment earns us an average of 5.7 per cent return or £1 million additional income per year.

“The investment programme is kept under constant review to ensure we are investing Essex tax payers funds wisely.”

In July 2017, the council’s cabinet approved plans to create a £50 million property investment fund.

So far only three properties have been purchased, however the documents reveal 12 different sites have been considered. It is not known whether any of these were in Essex.

A report into the fund’s actions said properties in the county would be considered, but presented more of a risk than those further afield, such as the retail park in Keighley, which is more than 200 miles away.

The report states: “While Essex properties will be considered, the purpose of the fund is explicitly only for return on investment.

“Over 95 per cent of property transactions are not within Essex and therefore, it is probable that investments will be in non Essex properties.”

A 12 week consultation looking into the closure of the 25 libraries will open on Thursday, November 29, and close on Wednesday, February 20.