First public property map - councils could save billions

Published on Friday, 05 August 2011 09:50
Posted by Scott Buckler

Councils and other public bodies should publish asset lists that will help to identify billions of pounds of potential savings and protect frontline services, Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles announced today (August 5th)

A 'demo' map published today locates over 180,000 assets owned by almost 600 public sector bodies, including Central Government and 87 councils. It reveals widespread public property ownership, beyond frontline services, underlining the scope for savings and the potential of a national asset map.

Public sector assets are worth an estimated £385bn, with almost two thirds owned by councils. The Government today committed to work with areas seeking to make savings through better property management. Government estimates this could potentially save £35 billion over 10 years.

Mr Pickles wants public sector organisations, including councils, to publish registers of all buildings and land owned. Local people could use the lists alongside the Localism Bill's new community rights to protect local treasures.

Mr Pickles believes the public have a right to see the sheer scale and variety of public sector asset wealth, which in some cases include pubs, farms and even sports clubs. The map reveals:


  • just over 18,000 of Central Government assets - land and buildings;
  • Hampshire County Council owns around 2000 hectares of farm land and property leased to private tenants;
  • over 130 cafes and restaurants, more than 100 pubs, around 60 theatres, over forty hotels including three Holiday Inns, about 20 cinemas and one airport in Southend are listed; as well as
  • nearly 100 golf courses, almost 30 sports stadiums including Swindon Rugby Club, Swindon Town Football club and Aldershot Football Club, a handful of horse riding centres, and one sailing club.

Results from eleven council led pilot projects, known as capital and assets pathfinders, found that on average twenty per cent savings could be made by rationalising public assets or co-locating local services based on customer needs.

And a recent independent report found local government and the public sector could save up to £7bn a year in operational costs through better property management. Annual running costs top £25bn and the backlog of maintenance repairs has been estimated to be around £40bn.

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 Department has today published the results of the capital and asset pathfinder experience - where councils and Whitehall worked together to make better use of assets. They show savings could be made whilst improving provision of frontline services through measures like co-location.

  • Leicestershire councils and local public services are investigating ways to join up services and better co-ordinate asset use, with hubs being created in three of the districts, to provide cost and carbon emission reductions across the county;
  • Worcestershire Council discovered they were using 39 separate public buildings for public sector training and conferences. They are now looking at how to rationalise these to ensure better use;
  • Cambridgeshire are moving towards a single public sector approach where assets are managed locally to make savings and reduce carbon emissions. Early investigations suggest savings of up to £200million over 10 years may be possible;
  • Hampshire expects to reduce operating size and costs by a least a third in Winchester and Basingstoke by developing a single asset decision making hub across the local public sector. It will be overseen by a Joint Management Board of partners.

Communities Minister Baroness Hanham said the findings made clear that central government had a role to play too. Where savings could be made by bringing multiple services under one roof, one of the biggest barriers was lack of engagement from the Whitehall departments which owned the properties concerned.

Baroness Hanham said:

"We have worked hard with the Pathfinder authorities to develop the concept of asset management. We are very grateful to all who have given their time and enthusiasm to this project. The Local Government Group will now take over from our Department to help promote and extend the work that has been done and continue supporting local areas as they identify savings"


Source: DCLG

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