DCLG are right to urge local authorities to publish asset registers

The Department for Communities and Local Government has published a list of all assets owned by more than 600 public sector bodies. Many are schools, health centres and leisure centres as you would expect, but what is more astonishing is the sheer number that are shops, theatres, golf clubs, hotels, stables and even football clubs. A map released by DCLG shows where more than 180,000 assets worth more than £385bn are located. More than two thirds of these assets are held by councils, which emphases how important is it that all councils publish their assets register so residents can use it alongside new powers in the Localism Bill to get better value and engage in local decisions. Perhaps what is more disappointing is that councils do not publish this information themselves and the task has fallen to a central government department, as it so often has.

Listed in the disclosure are over 130 cafes and restaurants; more than 100 pubs; 60 theatres; over 40 hotels, 3 of which are Holiday Inns; 20 cinemas and an airport. Estimates show annual running costs top £25bn each year and the backlog of maintenance costs exceeds £40bn. All public bodies must first make their asset registers available to the public which will help them to use them more efficiently. Our Research Director John O’Connell wrote in his weekly ConHome column about the benefits of having this information made public: “A report by the Westminster Sustainable Business Forum (WSBF), led by Matthew Hancock MP, made a range of recommendations about local government estate management, including reducing asset lists by 20-30 per cent and handing control of property management to one central department in the council. It makes clear that although the money gained from sales is a one off, the reductions in running costs gained by merging services into fewer buildings will save money in the longer term too.”

There are huge savings for councils to make, whether through selling off assets or running them more wisely, helping to provide the best possible value for money to taxpayers and contribute to lowering council tax.

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