September 19, 2014
England’s local authorities are responding to the country’s ongoing austerity measures by behaving more like property developers as they seek to redevelop property and land valued at £13.5 billion by 2019, according to a new report from local government think tank Localis in conjunction with developer Cathedral Group. Rather than simply selling off assets, the research claims that councils are increasingly looking to develop property to provide them with revenue streams as a way of shoring up their shrinking budgets. The report claims that the proportion of projects slated for redevelopment is currently a third of all disposals but will make up the majority in five years time. The report has received cross party support and links to other high profile public sector initiatives, especially the One Public Sector Estate scheme. The Cabinet Office recently reported that the UK public sector estate had shrunk by 2 m. sq. ft. since 2010.
The report makes a number of recommendations, including:
- The creation of a local authority ‘hit squad’ of experienced officers, tasked with maximising returns on council assets. The report suggests that if they could deliver a 5 percent increase on the £13.5bn assets set to be developed over the next five years, this would produce almost £700m of extra revenue.
- All arms of central and local government should produce an annual register of assets which is made available to the public, increasing transparency as well as both supply and demand.
- Building on the Government’s One Public Estate programme, local authorities across the country should have a co-ordinating role for public service land in their locality, acting as custodians of their local communities.