Local Councils Urged To Spend Their Number Plate Nest-Eggs
It has been suggested that local government authorities in the East of England may be sitting on a fortune in civic number plates. Estimates of up to £1m have been placed on the value of registrations owned and critics are vociferous in their demand that the cash should be released as a contribution towards savings.
Although traditionally the preserve of the rich and famous, many spectacular number plates have ended up as civic trappings first acquired in the days when local authorities were individually responsible for the licensing systems in their respective areas.
Many have already found their way onto the open market. For example, F 1 was the very first plate issued in Essex back in 1904. Its most recent owner is businessman Afzal Kahn, who paid over £440k for it exactly 100 years later when it was auctioned by Essex County Council in 2004. There are rumours that Mr Kahn has recently turned down an offer of £1m from an anonymous buyer.
Currently, the most valuable plate residing in a town hall car park is thought to be Northampton Borough Council's NH 1. Conservative estimates put a price tag of £400k on the highly desirable number.
However, the leader of the council, Brian Markham, is adamant that he will not be bullied into parting with the registration in return for a short-term gain.
"If we got £400,000, that's equivalent to £4 off the average council tax bill for a whole year for the council taxpayers of Northampton," he concedes. "But that is only one year. Next year you can't sell the number plate again."
"More importantly," he goes on to say, "that number plate is part of our heritage. Not just for the council but for the town. We've owned that since the first number plates on cars."
Elsewhere in the region, Southend, Peterborough and Kings Lynn are all reported to have considerable sums riding on their stockplied plates.
A full investigation into the story is scheduled for transmission shortly by BBC East's Inside Out current affairs TV programme.
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