Speaking at the Goverment Property Conference this morning, Matt Hancock, Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General, announced that provisions were to be included in the Housing and Planning Bill that would required all local authorities to publish lists of their "surplus assets". This is to include all council homes empty for over 6 months and other buildings empty over 2 years.
The government press release states:
The minister also revealed today that through the Housing and Planning Bill, local authorities would be required, for the first time, to report on their assets in a similar fashion. This will increase transparency by showing the public how they are rationalising their estates, with this helping councils deliver savings by making better use of empty buildings and freeing up brownfield sites to build more homes. This reporting includes a requirement to publish information on surplus assets that they have retained for longer than 2 years (6 months for housing) and to give a reason for doing so.
Looking at the bigger picture, the press release comments on the reduction in the size of the goverment's property estate as a result of the drive to rationalise it claiming:
a 22% reduction equivalent to 336 football pitches, 43 Shards, or more than the entire principality of Monaco. This means that the total central government estate has fallen below 5,000 holdings for the first time and could fit inside the area of West Finchley
Experts claim that this is the first time "West Finchley" has been used as a unit of measurement, joining the more frequently cited Wales, elephants, double-decker buses, human hairs and football pitches. As few people know where West Finchley is, never mind how big it is, we can reveal that it is close to North Finchley. As for its size, after some difficulties in tracking down the necessary details, we have been able to find out how big it was in 2013 as revealed in the file attachment (size 229KB).