FROM pet shops to pubs and fashion stores to hotels – they are some of the country’s leading household names.

Civic chiefs in Eastleigh can boast names such as Pets at Home, Matalan, Travelodge and Wetherspoons among their tenants.

And now they say that taxpayers in the borough are reaping the financial rewards of its expanding property portfolio.

Finance bosses have used taxpayers’ money to invest in the property market in a bid to bring in much needed cash.

They have revealed that their property portfolio brings in more than £5 million in rent every year, into council coffers, being spent on front line services like bin collections and grass cutting.

But while the Liberal Democrat-run authority believes Eastleigh residents will benefit from the property investments, opposition councillors warned it is “risky” and “gambling with taxpayers money”.

Eastleigh council is not the only local authority to be investing in property.

As previously reported by the Daily Echo, Fareham Borough Council and Southampton City Council have been investing millions of pounds in the property market in a bid to help shore up their bank balances.

Cllr Keith House, council leader at Eastleigh Borough Council, said: “Our investment in property and the financial return we gain from this has meant that we have been able to protect frontline services and continue to invest in our economy and community.

“Far from being a cost to taxpayers, this initiative generates significant income with the return on investment more than covering the cost of borrowing.”

The council is also landlord to many other high street names including B&Q, Lloyds Bank, Halfords, Costa Coffee, Travelodge and the Ageas Bowl.

A spokesperson said: “A very prudent budget strategy is set by the council each year which includes an allowance for both an annual interest rate increase and a provision for long term borrowing at a long term rate.

“In addition each investment is based on funding at a long term rate and this sum is set aside each year within the budget to offer a further protection against any increase.”

However, Tory opposition councillor Judith Grajewski, deemed the approach as “risky”.

She said: “It’s gambling with taxpayers’ money. The return can be good if the market is good and if the interest rate stays low, but we don’t know how the interest rate is going to be in the future.

“If the interest rate goes up it will have an impact on the borrowing the council is doing and the repayment.

“Letting buildings can be good if tenants stay and pay the rent, but if there is a downturn in the economy and businesses go under there won’t be any income.”