Further to the recent report in the Sunday Telegraph that councils own £250 billion of assets, the Department for Communities and Local Government have now published a public property map listing state owned assets of land and buildings. It is a work in progress. Thus far there is information from only a minority of local councils, 87 ("willing participants over a set time.") I suspect that as with spending over £500 transparency on assets will soon become a requirement.
But the list does include other public bodies. This is useful as often local government find criticism tiresome when central government has not put it own house in order. Indeed much of the potential for sales will be central and local government sharing buildings.
In total there are 180,000 assets identified from 600 public bodies worth an estimated £385 billion. So those owned by councils run to about two thirds – with returns from hundreds of councils yet to come in.
So far the list has identified over 130 cafes and restaurants, more than 100 pubs, around 60 theatres, over 40 hotels including three Holiday Inns, about 20 cinemas, an airport in Southend, nearly 100 golf courses, almost 30 sports stadiums including Swindon Rugby Club, Swindon Town Football club and Aldershot Football Club, a handful horse riding centres, and one sailing club.
This map will be a valuable resource for anyone trying to find a site to set up a free school.
Eric Pickles said:
“We need to know, now more than ever, exactly what assets are publicly owned. The general public probably have no idea of the sheer scale and scope of property and land on the public sector’s books. In many cases it goes way beyond traditional frontline services.
“I want the public sector to take a good hard look at what they own. By cataloguing each and every asset councils can help Government find innovative new ways to utilise them, improve local services, keep council running costs down and save taxpayers’ money.
“This asset information also holds huge potential for local communities, offering an at a glance way to find that new meeting place or rescue the derelict tennis court round the corner.”
The Government is not proposing that everything should be sold. Modestly they suggest councils could raise £35 billion over 10 years. But is has also been estimated Total Place/Total Capital and Assets report that there is a £40bn of backlog maintenance. The running costs are £25 billion.
The Shadow Local Government Minister Jack Dromey has responded to this initiative with concern. He tells the BBC he doesn't want it to "deflect from the fact" that spending cuts have seen "front-line services lost" and "cuts to charities and the volutary sector." He seems to be rather missing the point. The idea is to avoid such cuts by reducingg debt interest and maintenance bills for surplus buildings.
Will Dromey urge Labour councils to publish their asset registers or not? Let's see their buildings on the map.
The Daily Telegraph notes some of the items included from Transport for London:
Transport for London owns the freeholds of 17 pubs across the capital, as well as a cinema in Newham and the Regent Theatre in Camden.
London Underground owns the freeholds of hotels in Marylebone, pubs in Lambeth and Hillingdon and some “grazing land” in Rickmansworth, Herts.
Over to you, Boris.