Council property sharing scheme set for nationwide rollout

23 Jul 15

The Cabinet Office and the Local Government Association have announced the nationwide expansion of the One Public Estate programme as part of efforts to cut costs by sharing offices and other property.

The scheme, which brings town halls and central government departments together to devise ways to use the local public sector estate more efficiently, was first launched in June 2013.

An initial round of 12 pilots was extended to 15 more authorities last April. They are estimated to have made savings of £21m in running costs and raised £88m in capital receipts.

It was confirmed today that the government will provide £6m to expand the programme, and a LGA spokesman told Public Finance that all authorities were being invited to submit proposals for the scheme, which will then be assessed to qualify for support from the additional funding.

LGA chair Gary Porter said the scheme to date had shown councils were perfectly placed to deliver effective cross-public sector asset management.

“It is great to see in practice and how through the programme we are seeing the integration of services, local economic growth, and support more sustainable local government,” he added. 

“It’s clear this isn’t easy work and the investment of time, energy and patience, as well as funds, needs to go hand in hand with strong leadership. But I think what the One Public Estate programme has shown us is that the hard work is worth it.”

Cabinet Office minister Matthew Hancock highlighted that the scheme had contributed to the £1.4bn raised from asset sales and lower running costs in the last parliament.

“By freeing up land and encouraging growth we are helping local communities to spring to life and find a new use for old government land,” he added.

The 32 councils currently on the programme own 28% of council land and property assets in England. The rationalisation is expected to free up enough land for 9,000 homes while also raising £129m in capital receipts from land sales and cutting running costs by £77m over 5 years.

Examples in the scheme to date include City of York Council entering a partnership with Network Rail to jointly release city centre land for the development of 1,100 new homes and 80,000sq m of commercial property.

In another, Leeds City Council has worked in partnership with Leeds Community Health to develop a plan to use council land and property as part of the delivery of integrated health and social care services.

The expansion aims to work with large groupings of local authorities, such as existing or emerging combined authority areas or other clusters, to develop rationalisation plans.

Funding of up to £250,000 will be available for projects. Bids should be submitted by 10 August.

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