By Richard Johnstone | 25 April 2014
A Whitehall programme to help central and local government share offices and other property is to be extended to 15 new authorities across the country.
The One Public Estate programme, established last June to get central and local government to share buildings in 12 areas, is projected to have saved £21m in its first year. Sales of buildings that are now unoccupied following a rationalisation of the public sector estate could raise as much as £88m in capital receipts, according to figures published yesterday.
The scheme, which is funded by the Cabinet Office’s Government Property Unit and delivered by the Local Government Association, will now be expanded. Successful bidders will receive £40,000 in initial funding, as well as support from the GPU and LGA, to bring agencies together and agree reforms to make better use of the public sector estate.
Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude said the programme showed there were significant opportunities for efficiency and growth when central and local government worked together in order to encourage regeneration and co-located services that benefit the taxpayer.
LGA improvement board chair Peter Fleming added that by examining their assets councils could benefit from capital receipts as well as lower running costs for office space.
‘At a time when local government has faced cuts of 40% since 2010 this is a great opportunity for councils to reap the benefits of the assets they hold,’ he said.
‘Through the extension of the One Public Estate programme more councils can benefit from using their public assets effectively and we look forward to receiving their applications.’
Among the successes highlighted from the pilot schemes, the number of council offices in Hull has been cut from 43 to 29, and the city council has worked jointly with other public sector bodies to look at joint approaches to service delivery and back-office functions. After raising £971,000 in capital receipts in 2013/14, alongside a £292,000 reduction in running costs, a new annual target of £1m of capital receipts and £250,000 in revenue savings has been set.
In another example, Surrey County Council is working with the Spelthorne Borough Council, the Ministry of Justice and the NHS to reduce the number of offices in Staines Upon Thames. It is hoped this will free up land for the construction of 340 homes, as well as raising capital receipts of between £15m and £20m and reducing operating costs by as much as half.