A wide scale inquiry by the Bureau of Investigative Journalists working with the Huffington Post news website and many regional journalists, has revealed that England’s local councils have sold off 12,000 public spaces since 2014/2015 and made £9.1billion from property sales.
Wiltshire Council has made at least £31,546,000 from sales of public spaces and properties. Top of Huffington Post’s list of sales by Wiltshire Council is Melksham’s George Ward School which was sold for £13,210,000.
We will have to wait a while to see the return Wiltshire Council get on their forthcoming sale of Marlborough’s St Peter’s School.
The only sale listed for Marlborough is the Coombe End Court care home which was sold in July 2014 for £1,300,000. This sale was by ‘private treaty’ rather than being put onto the ‘open market’ – which is strange as the Council has a legal duty to maximise proceeds from any sale of assets. But probably the need for continued care at the home made a sale by private treaty permissable.
The Wiltshire list includes the ‘community asset transfers’ to Marlborough Town Council of Coopers Meadow (on 23 December 2015) and the George Lane car park public conveniences (on 4 April 2016). These had no cash value for Wiltshire Council.
However, the listed monetary proceeds from sales do not include the value of the savings councils make from not having to pay business rates or upkeep on transferred and sold properties. Those ongoing annual costs for the transferred properties are passed down to lower level councils – in our case to Marlborough Town Council – often necessitating a rise in the part of the Council Tax they raise, but bringing, of course, no lowering of the county-wide Council Tax.
The Huffington Post list for Wiltshire sell-offs does not include the sale of the amenity land off Rabley Wood View or the sale Wiltshire Council’s former Highways Depot where Savernake View care home now stands. This maybe because the Council was one of the 36 councils that withheld information about some sales when they responded to the Bureau’s Freedom of Information requests.
The full list for Wiltshire can be accessed here. Go down to the black rectangle under the headline ‘Sold from under you’ and enter ‘Wiltshire’ in the search bar.