Councils to sell £129m of land and property -Financial Times - Land.Net News
January 1, 2016
Councils will sell £129m of land and property in the early stages of what the government hopes will become a much wider push to raise cash from assets, helping to mitigate budget cuts.
In England, 32 local authorities have identified land to build 9,000 homes in the first phase of a Cabinet Office scheme to encourage public sector bodies to reassess their land and property holdings to cut running costs and raise money from sales.
Another 100 councils have recently signed up to the scheme.
The Conservatives have long had their eye on public sector land and property as a potential source of both revenue and expenditure savings.
David Cameron cited Oxfordshire Council’s assets when he wrote to its leader in September to complain about cuts to frontline services.
The government is spending £38m in grants to help councils pay for professional advice on the process, including drawing up asset registers, mapping land and carrying out feasibility studies.
Matthew Hancock, the minister for the Cabinet Office, said the scheme would help councils “save money for taxpayers whilst delivering more efficient public services”.
Jeremy Rowe, a cabinet member at Cornwall Council, which has just signed up for the programme, said it planned to bring fire, police and ambulance services together in several towns, saving money and improving co-ordination.
Croydon Council joined last year and has so far identified 15 sites that can be sold for redevelopment. It plans to sell land for 900 new homes in the next five years.
John Goulston, chief executive of Croydon NHS Trust, said the area’s population was growing fast and the property sales would help the NHS to regenerate its buildings in the area.
“Parts of the old Croydon University Hospital site are now out of step with modern healthcare,” he said.
Other councils that have identified potential sell-offs include Cambridgeshire, which has land for 300 homes, Leeds, where the health service will raise £500,000 by selling former premises, and Nottingham, where the Department for Work and Pensions moved into the council’s offices, cutting costs by £500,000 a year.
The move is part of attempts to put public sector property ownership on a new footing. George Osborne, the chancellor, announced in November that the government would be taking a “new commercial approach” to land and property.