Jessica Luper 24 September 2015

Government ‘should be embarrassed’ by land disposal records, says watchdog

The Government has been criticised for the way it has managed the sale of public land for new housing, in a damning report published by the public spending watchdog.

In a new report, the Public Accounts Committee found the Government has failed to record information on how many homes have been built on public land sold for this purpose, or how much this process raised.

Meg Hillier MP, chair of the Committee of Public Accounts, today said: 'The Government should be embarrassed by the failings uncovered by the PAC's inquiry into land disposal.

Its entire approach has been wishful thinking dressed up as public policy. It also demonstrates an alarming complacency over the future of an irreplaceable public asset...the Government has no record of how many homes have been built or are under construction. It has no record of sale proceeds, nor their value in relation to prevailing market prices.

'There is no means of knowing whether taxpayers are getting a good deal from the sale of their land.'

The report said that the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) could not demonstrate the success of the land disposal programme in addressing the housing shortage or achieving value for money for the taxpayer, because it does not collect information on the actual number of houses built or under construction,the proceeds from land sold, or whether the parcels of land were sold at market value.

It also deemed the DCLG to have adopted ‘a very wide interpretation’ of what it could count towards achieving its target. With much greater ambitions for land disposals in the new Parliament,the watchdog says the DCLG must address the weaknesses in the current programme.

A DCLG spokesman said: 'Previous governments allowed valuable brownfield land to go unused whilst housebuilding levels crashed to their lowest levels since the 1920s.

'We have got the country building again and are releasing surplus government land to protect taxpayers from paying for their upkeep and build the homes families need.

'This has released enough land to build 109,000 new homes and we now want to go further and faster with land sales for a further 150,000 homes by 2020, helping people achieve their dream of home ownership.'

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