Cabinet Office trumpets £1.1bn generated by efficiency-driven property sales

Proceeds from Tokyo Embassy deal make up 60% of provisional 2022-23 figure, details reveal
Photo: Fotolia

By Jim Dunton

22 Dec 2023

The Cabinet Office has said more than £1.1bn was generated through the sale of government-owned land and buildings in the year to March, a hike of around £500m on disposals in 2021-2022.

It represents more than two-thirds of a three-year government target to generate £1.5bn by 2025 through making more efficient use of government land and buildings.

The provisional figures, which are contained in the Government Estate Annual Data Publication, say the £1.1bn comes from 306 property disposals from eight government departments.

However just one property disposal represents the lion’s share of the total: 2022’s sale of part of the British Embassy compound in Tokyo, which netted £685.7m after sale costs, according to the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office’s most recent annual report and accounts.

The Cabinet Office’s data publication acknowledged that the bulk of £695m described as “overseas” disposals was associated with the sale of “one high value surplus property”. However, it did not name the Tokyo Embassy.

Outside of the FCDO’s property holdings, vacant land that is not associated with individual buildings – or part of the Ministry of Defence’s estate – accounted for the most lucrative disposals, notching up £222.2m from 180 sales.

Sales of 24 parcels of defence land or buildings generated £65.1m, while the disposal of surplus infrastructure raised £53.9m and receipts from a range of NHS bodies and other health-related organisations contributed £52.4m.

Cabinet Office minister Alex Burghart said the Government Estate Annual Data Publication showed the public estate was “playing its part” in making government more efficient in all areas.

“We’re clear we want to see a smaller, better, and greener public estate and we want to use public property to stimulate economic growth and create opportunities for jobs and regeneration,” he said.

“Those were the principles we built our Government Property Strategy around and I am pleased we have made such impressive progress in just the first year.”

The Cabinet Office said that 112 of the 180 vacant land disposals detailed in the report related to approximately 500ha sold by Homes England, which is an executive non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.

It said the sites were expected to unlock development opportunities for the delivery of more than 5,000 houses and “facilitate regeneration projects” across the UK.

The Government Estate Annual Data Publication said proceeds from the Tokyo Embassy sale are being “reinvested to help fund improvement projects across the FCDO overseas estate”.

Earlier this week, Public Accounts Committee chair Dame Meg Hillier wrote to FCDO permanent secretary Sir Philip Barton expressing concerns about the department’s reliance on asset sales to fund the upkeep of its estate.

“We do not consider this to be sustainable in the medium to longer term and are concerned that the maintenance of the estate is not, at least in part, being met through the FCDO’s annual settlement,” she wrote.

Her letter followed an evidence session with Barton and other senior FCDO officials at the end of last month. It noted that a further 14 asset sales were scheduled by the department for the remainder of the financial year.

The Cabinet Office describes its Government Estate Annual Data Publication as a “precursor” to the annual State of the Estate Report, which is due to be published early next year.

The document released yesterday contains some sections – such as the disposal of government offices, which comes under the remit of the Government Property Agency – with no information for 2022-23. Other sections contained data described as “to be finalised”.

Last year’s State of the Estate report detailed land and building disposals valued at £611.6m in 2021-22.


Property & Estates
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