Stoke-on-Trent City Council is spending around £500,000 each year on security gates, maintenance and utility bills for empty buildings that it owns. reported that in 2012/13 £375,000 will go towards boarding up and protecting the properties from being vandalised or taken over by squatters.

A further £115,000 will be splashed out on utility bills and ensuring that the buildings are safe, in accordance with health and safety rules.

Ann James, independent councillor and a member for Great Chell and Packmoor, told the source that many of the buildings in question, which do not include council houses or garages, have been empty for a long time.

"The issue has been debated before and I still don't understand why the council doesn't have arrangements in place for the buildings before it closes them down," she said, adding that anti-social behaviour has been a problem in some areas.

According to Loxal Security, looking after vacant property and ensuring it remains safe from vandalism, arson and squatting is a £200 million industry in the UK.

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