Our 12 District Councils and Kent County Council have sold £93 million pounds worth of land or property during the period 2014 – 2018. The number of properties pieces of land sold totals 304 according to data compiled by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.
Local authorities in Kent & the UK have been and continue to be under unprecedented financial strain due to cuts in government funding and rising demand for services. In 2016, the government gave councils in England new powers to sell community spaces such as libraries, playing fields and day care centres to help balance their books. Thousands of them have been sold since, with little public awareness or scrutiny.
Previously, money made from selling public assets could only be used to fund the cost of buying new ones. In April 2016, the then Chancellor George Osborne relaxed the rules to allow local authorities to spend the proceeds on cost-cutting measures, such as sharing back-office functions with other authorities, investing in new technology or other reforms which have upfront costs but reduce spending in the long-term.
Selling public buildings and spaces is a false economy that leaves our communities poorer, we believe.
For the map of what and where Councils sold click on the Council’s name
The 13 Councils named above are selling public land and buildings to fund cost-cutting measures – a policy called the “flexible use of capital receipts” – must in the government’s words, “demonstrate the highest standards of accountability and transparency.” This means producing annual reports detailing the amount of money being spent, the projects funded and the savings targets set.
Evidence the Shepwayvox Team has seen found those standards were not always being met, preventing proper scrutiny and denying the public the chance to properly debate the decisions about what is sold and what the money is used for.
Over half the council mentioned above are not fully adhering to the rules around the data they have to publish about the land and buildings they own. We are aware of this as Folkestone & Hythe District Council for example, updated their Asset Register to inform the public they had purchased the Willows for £500,000 on the A20 between Sellindge & Newingreen, but not Craylands which the purchased on the 5th Feb 2019 for £755,000.
Again this demonstrates a lack of transparency and accountability by all the Council named above. Come the local elections on May 2nd across the County, you can use your vote to improve the County any way you wish. Use it wisely.
The Shepwayvox Team
Journalism for the People NOT the Powerful