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Whitehall and town halls launch property-sharing plan

By Richard Johnstone | 26 June 2013

A new drive to help central and local government share offices and other buildings was launched yesterday, with 12 councils to be given extra Whitehall support to make better use of the public sector estate.

The Government Property Unit, based in the Cabinet Office, will work with authorities and the Local Government Association to remove barriers that stop different parts of the public sector sharing properties.

Each council will identify where premises can be shared with other parts of the public sector to save money in property costs. The programmes will also look for opportunities to sell underused assets, such as office buildings, depots, hospitals and vacant land.

The scheme follows three waves of the government’s Capital and Asset Pathfinders programme, which led to around 35 authorities taking action to share buildings.

Launching the pilots, Cabinet Office minister Chloë Smith said millions of pounds were being wasted by public services ‘using expensive buildings when there’s another public sector property half empty down the road’.

She added: ‘That’s taxpayers’ money which could be used in so many other ways. This policy will save money – but also promote growth and bring in jobs locally.’

LGA chair Sir Merrick Cockell added said a joined-up approach between central and local government was ‘urgent and essential’.

He added: ‘While these pilots represent the flagships, this type of innovation is evident in councils right across the country.’

Welcoming the programme, David Bentley, head of asset management at CIPFA, said a collaborative approach to asset management offered ‘significant opportunities to better manage public land and buildings’.

He said: ‘CIPFA’s own research and experience has highlighted the potential for such a joint approach to deliver savings, give better access to services and create new opportunities for growth at a local level. As such we are encouraged by, and supportive of the pilot work between the Government Property Unit and the wider public sector.’

The councils taking part of the new scheme are:

•    Bristol
•    Cheshire West and Chester
•    Essex
•    Hampshire
•    Hull
•    Leeds
•    Nottingham
•    Portsmouth
•    Sheffield
•    Surrey
•    Warrington
•    Worcestershire

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