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Local Authorities: Land

Volume 461: debated on Monday 4 June 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if she will extend the policy of allowing local authorities to sell land to local communities for £1 and receive extra funding to allow the Government to sell land to the local community for £1 on sites of local interest; and if she will consider the sale of Darwin House in Shrewsbury under such a policy. (140131)

Central Government Departments may dispose of surplus assets on the open market at less than the best price reasonably obtainable. The procedure for this is set out in chapter 25 of Government Accounting, which states that parliamentary approval must be sought for gifts (that is, the difference between the price agreed and the best price reasonably obtainable) where the value exceeds £250,000.

Local authorities’ power to dispose of surplus assets at less than best consideration is governed by the General Disposal Consent 2003 under the Local Government Act 1972. This provides that they will not be required to seek specific consent from the Secretary of State for the disposal of land where the difference between the unrestricted value of the interest and the consideration accepted is less than £2 million, subject to specific circumstances.

In all cases both central and local government will need to demonstrate that the additional community benefits accruing from the disposal at less than best consideration outweigh the opportunity costs of not pursuing other options, including the capital receipt that would be obtained from open market sale.

In the case of Darwin House, the Valuation Office Agency is leasing the property in order to deliver a valuable public service so it is currently not surplus to requirements.