11 June 2014
Councils may not be getting the best value for money from local government estates, says the Audit Commission.
The commission, set up to protect the public sector finances, is calling on local authorities to adopt a "strategic approach" to managing surplus assets - estimated to be worth £2.5 billion.
Surplus property is treated as "operational" in government accounts, but councils do not use it to provide or support services.
English councils spent £5.6 billion on operating and maintaining their premises.
Surplus assets are potentially worth five times as much as "assets held for sale", according to the commission. This group of property was valued at £500 million.
Audit Commission chairman Jeremy Newman said he was not advocating a "wholesale sell-off" of council-owned land and property.
"What we are highlighting is a group of assets that do not provide immediate benefit to local communities, but still require councils to spend money on maintaining them."
The Audit Commission's report, Managing Council Property Assets: Using Data From The VFM Profiles, encourages FMs in local authorities to "consider whether assets are in the right place, whether they should keep, sell, or transfer them, and how much they should invest in building, buying and maintaining property."