Revealed: An estimated £15 billion local public assets sold since 2010
In response, a major new citizens’ blueprint for levelling up - “an antidote to loss” - launches today
The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) and IPPR North will today launch a major research report, rooted in the views and ideas of citizens up and down the country, offering a citizens’ blueprint for levelling up.
The report “Parallel lives: Regionally rebalancing wealth, power and opportunity” is being launched amidst new figures unearthed by the IPPR and IPPR North that highlight the scale of the loss of public assets since 2010.
New analysis of published local government data alongside statistics from a Freedom of Information request shows that an estimated 75,000 council assets, worth around £15 billion, have been sold since 2010. On average more than 6,000 council assets worth around £1.2 billion annually have been sold every year during the last 13 years.
Whilst under-pressure local authorities often have little choice but to sell, it represents a loss to communities that is unlikely to be reversed with a further 2,500 council-owned buildings and assets already at risk in the next five years.
By comparison, the research estimates that a total of just 2,500 assets came newly into community ownership since 2010.
The loss to local communities was reflected in the stories told to IPPR researchers during deliberative hearings held in Hastings, Redcar and Stoke-on-Trent. A picture emerged of proud, hopeful communities compelled to patch up the holes in a threadbare social safety net.
IPPR’s new blueprint makes a series of ambitious recommendations, including introducing:
Fair funding formula for local government: A new, fairer funding formula for major public sector investment projects so that areas that need investment, receive it.
Common good property registers: increasing transparency of public asset ownership to help to protect communities from continual losses, alongside support for communities to regain assets.
New ways to empower citizens locally: one per cent of local funding to be allocated to ‘participatory budgeting’ – so that citizens can get directly involved in the decisions made about their area.
A Stoke-on-Trent resident who was a participant in our citizen conversation project spoke of the need for people in the town to be empowered: "I just think that the people who live in it should be the people who are given the opportunity to have a say on how to transform it, and how to better it. It’s all very well politicians from London having a say on our situation, but they haven’t walked in our shoes.”
Director of IPPR North, and report co-author, Zoë Billingham said:
“People have lost far too much over the last 13 years. Communities have lost billions worth of public land and buildings in their areas, local safety nets are crumbling all whilst government plays fast and loose with major regional infrastructure projects.
“People want and deserve better than this. They want functioning public services, to receive a fair share of investment and to restore pride in their places. Regional rebalancing must be reprioritised by central government and through support of regional leaders who continue to champion the agenda locally.
“It’s time to rewire the status quo so that wealth, power and opportunity can be accessed and shared by everyone, in the places they live”.
Executive director of IPPR, Carys Roberts said:
“Our economy and democracy are not yet structured to help people everywhere thrive. Citizens still expect regional rebalancing to happen and through our citizen conversations they told us how they want a fairer, more transparent and committed offer for their places. It’s time for an upgrade, our citizens’ blueprint for levelling up offers the antidote to loss.”
IPPR spokespeople are available for interview.
Paul Hebden, IPPR North Communications Consultant on 07413 729 505.
- Embargoed copies of the report “Parallel lives: Regionally rebalancing wealth power and opportunity” are available on request.
- The report will be published at 00.01 on Thursday 21st September and will then be available at: www.ippr.org
- Local authority FOI request and research methodology: IPPR sent a FOI request to all 318 principal local authorities in England. We received 154 responses with useable data, a response rate of almost 50 per cent.
- We asked three principal questions, related to asset disposals since 2010, community asset transfers, and the number of assets currently for sale or anticipated to be sold within the next five years. We used these figures to estimate the total number of disposals and total number of community asset transfers in England over the past 13 years.
- We compared the data from our FOIs with publicly available data on local authority asset disposals held by the Department for Levelling Up Housing and Communities (DLUHC). We analysed total disposals of tangible fixed assets by principal local authorities from 2010/11 to the most recent data (2022/23 forecasts) excluding receipts attributed to housing services, to account for right-to-buy acquisitions, large-scale voluntary transfers and similar housing asset shifts.
- We combined these figures to arrive at our estimate that 75,000 council assets worth circa £15 billion have been sold since 2010, on average over 6,000 council assets worth approximately £1.2 billion are estimated to have been lost every year since 2010.
- This compares to an estimated 2,500 assets that are estimated to have come into community ownership over the same period, around 165 every year.
- IPPR, the Institute for Public Policy Research, is an independent charity working
towards a fairer, greener, and more prosperous society. IPPR North is the dedicated think tank for the north of England, with bases in Manchester and Newcastle. IPPR is Britain’s only national think tank with a truly national presence. www.ippr.org