The government's efforts to persuade public bodies to give up their redundant real estate and share more premises more up a gear today with the announcement of a new joint initiative by local central government. Twenty local authorities are to join the Cabinet Office and Local Government Association's One Public Estate programme, which uses land and property released by government to boost economic growth and regeneration. The programme also encourages the sharing of services.
The 20 councils will join 12 pilot authorities that took part in the first phase of the programme last year.
Pilot participants include Leeds City Council, which worked with West Yorkshire Police to help the force relocate, freeing space for the city centre to be regenerated. Hull City Council also made better use of its space, reducing the number of council properties in Hull from 43 to 29.
Surrey County Council meanwhile is working in partnership with Spelthorne Borough Council, the Ministry of Justice and the National Health Service, to review the provision of local services by making better use of premises.
The pilots are expected to save £21m in running costs and generate £88m in capital receipts.
As an encouragement to sign up, councils will receive funding and training from the Government Property Unit and the LGA. This includes support from Whitehall and LGA officials on how to cut red tape.
Cllr Peter Fleming, chair of the LGA's Improvement and Innovation Board, said: "The first round has been extremely successful and this second round will continue to build on the good work achieved so far. Local authorities have been in the driving seat and the achievements made during the first wave represent a tiny proportion of what we believe One Public Estate can achieve."
The Cabinet Office says that central government has shed 1,250 buildings since the general election. Minister for the Cabinet Office Francis Maude said: "This programme shows what can be done when central and local government work together, and it's great to see more and more local authorities entering the programme and demonstrating a readiness to save money for taxpayers, create new jobs and deliver better services by using their assets more efficiently."
The authorities taking part in the programme's second phase are: Manchester City, Trafford, Bury, Oldham, Salford and Stockport; Norfolk and Suffolk in partnership with Forest Heath and St. Edmondsbury (West Suffolk); Liverpool; Birmingham; Barnet; Croydon; Plymouth; Southampton; Kent; York; Cornwall and Bradford.