Finding a site to start a free school is particularly difficult in London. The good news is that the Mayor of London Boris Johnson is keen to help and he is responsible for the 1,500 acres of land in the capital owned by the Greater London Authority. A primary school usually needs at least an acre, a secondary school three or four acres. So if the Mayor can free up only around 1% of his property portfolio that would mean space for ten schools.
Rigorous asset management should be a priority for him anyway – Transport for London, to take just one member of the GLA "family", has debts of over £6 billion.
Even the less indebted family member MOPAC has an annual interest bill for £17.5 million on its borrowings of £234 million. It has assets worth £1.96 billion. The Deputy Mayor of Policing, Stephen Greenhalgh, will be looking to cut spending on debt interest.
If Boris sells some of the surplus GLA buildings to the Department of Education for free schools then he is achieving two objectives at once.
This morning Boris was at Pimlico Academy ("my comprehensive" as Ed Miliband would put it) to emphasise his determination to find suitable sites that could be released. A dedicated unit in City Hall is being set up to pursue it. The Mayor doesn't have statutory responsibility for education. However his determination will surely mean that more free schools will be set up than would otherwise have been possible.
The DCLG have published this useful map of public sector assets.