20 more councils are joining the “One Public Estate” programme. This is a scheme to sell Government land and for it to be used effectively for regeneration.
The councils that have signed up are Manchester City, Trafford, Bury, Oldham, Salford and Stockport Norfolk and Suffolk in partnership with Forest Heath and St. Edmundsbury (West Suffolk), Liverpool, Birmingham, Barnet, Croydon, Plymouth, Southampton, Kent, York, Cornwall and Bradford.
Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude, says:
“As part of this Government’s long-term economic plan we have got out of 1250 buildings since the last General Election generating hundreds of millions in savings and creating more opportunities for housing and jobs.
“This programme shows what can be done when central and local Government work together, and it’s great to see more and more local authorities entering the programme and demonstrating a readiness to save money for taxpayers, create new jobs and deliver better services by using their assets more efficiently.”
There have already been successes from councils taking part in pilots:
Leeds City Council worked in collaboration with West Yorkshire Police to help them secure a new site for their divisional Headquarters. The police force is working to put more constables on the streets and less time in offices.
They had been struggling to find a suitable site to relocate to from their existing stations in Millgarth and Holbeck but the council were able to locate an 8-acre edge of town site opposite Leeds United football ground. Consequently the council purchased the Millgarth police station to drive city centre regeneration by facilitating the development of the Victoria Gate retail scheme which will feature a new flagship John Lewis store and creating over 990 jobs.
The Hull City Council Building Optimisation Programme (BOP) was a successful programme set up in 2011 which reduced the number of council office properties in the city centre from 43 buildings to 29.
The BOP programme has now extended to include other public sector partners, and in the first year of the programme, the council has been looking at joint approaches to service delivery and back-office functions. One example is the newly built NHS Bransholme Health Centre which provides a range of health and community services in one building, allowing the council to relinquish a number of expensive leases and bring together more integrated public services.
Surrey Council has been able to develop new opportunities with local and central government partners. At Knowle Green in Staines Upon Thames the county council is working in partnership with Spelthorne Borough Council, the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) and the National Health Service (NHS), to review the provision of local services.
The empire of unused state buildings involves high maintenance liabilities. The pilots created savings in running costs of £21million as well as £88 million in capital receipts, while the new developments will provide 7,500 new homes and 5,500 new jobs.
These small examples remind us of the vast potential there could be for land sales to reduce the National Debt.