The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has criticised the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) for failing to collect information about its land sales and failing to ensure value for money for the UK taxpayer.
DCLG has been selling land back to the private sector but has not recorded how much this land was sold for, whether or not the sale was at market value and how many houses were built on this land. This is an astonishing failure to ensure that taxpayers get value for money.
The PAC was sceptical that value for money was achieved with the sale of some sites and basic information regarding the sales that may have supported such a case was unavailable to the National Audit Office (NAO). The report also notes that the obligation to achieve a certain levels of sales within a fixed timescale would have introduced incentives to sell at a price below the market rate. As such, they concluded that it is very unlikely that value for money was achieved.
What’s more, although the department thought that enough land had been sold on which to build 100,000 homes there was no evidence as to how many had actually been built.
The PAC said that DCLG “did not collect basic information necessary to oversee the programme effectively and, where it did collect programme-level data, there were omissions and inconsistencies”. Unsurprisingly the PAC demanded that the department must address the current programmes weaknesses and improve its monitoring.
The Department was not even aware of the guidance that should have been followed when disposing of assets. These land sales seem to have been poorly planned and poorly executed. Worst of all, nobody knows if this achieved good value for money: taxpayers don’t know, the PAC doesn’t know and DCLG doesn’t know.
It’s absolutely right that the government is selling off parts of his property empire so the private sector can build desperately needed homes, but it’s simply unacceptable that a good idea is being executed so badly.