Today the newspapers are analysing a charity’s report on why so many public assets are being sold off, and the reason is.
Austerity forcing sell-offs of council buildings and parks
The charity Locality has released a report, The Great British Sell Off, which has found that English councils starved of central government funding are selling off public buildings and parks at a rate of more than 4,000 per year. The charity found that councils have sold off 20,651 public buildings or spaces in the last five years, including former library, swimming pool, or youth centre buildings.
Among the buildings sold over the period were the Grade II-listed former Liverpool City Council headquarters, sold to a hotel developer for £10.2m, and the former Temple Cowley swimming pool sold by Oxford City Council for £3.5m in 2014.
In the report, Locality noted that: “While selling some land and buildings for private use is appropriate, the danger is that this becomes the only option for councils unaware of the longer-term benefits of community ownership,” and that against a “backdrop of austerity,” many local authorities were taking opportunities to make “short-term financial gain at the cost of losing some of the country’s most valuable assets.
” Richard Watts from the LGA’s resources board said that with town halls facing a funding gap “in excess of £5bn a year by 2020,” they were forced to make “difficult decisions about how best to use resources to support services and protect public assets.”
Councillor Phil Bateman said ” Its true that all local authorities are constantly analysing all their portfolios, as Government grants are axed and reduced. There is a real tough task facing Councils, which have to balance their budgets by law, and of course we are all trying hard to maintain front line services. Sometimes to do that Councils have to resort to selling their assets.
Its not a good time to be in Local Government at the moment, there seems to be a fresh crisis appearing every day!”