Hampshire County Council could sell buildings to help budget shortfall
Hampshire County Council could sell more of its buildings to raise money and reduce costs to help with its budget shortfall, it has been revealed writes local democracy reporter Natalia Forero.
This move aligns with the recent plans currently under review by the government.
Under plans from Michael Gove’s Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, councils would be given greater flexibility to use money raised from asset disposals to meet their budget pressures.
As part of a recent consultation with town hall leaders, it is estimated that councils across the country have “investment properties” worth £23.2 billion, which could be disposed of to help meet budget shortfalls with proposed changes to the rules that would allow sales without government approval.
However, property experts predict that selling assets in the first half of 2024 would likely be the worst moment since what was bought in recent years could have lost its value and would be worth less.
Last year, Capital House in Winchester, a four-storey office building that used to form part of Hampshire County Council’s Winchester office accommodation, was empty for some months.
After “careful” consideration, the county council decided that the building was “no longer required” and was sold to the University of Southampton to invest in the Winchester School of Art.
With the current £132 financial gap expected in 2025/26, the council is looking at what more could be done to raise funds and reduce costs.
A spokesperson for Hampshire County Council said: “We have always carefully monitored the use of our buildings to ensure they remain cost-effective and to release savings whenever possible.
“We are already reviewing our office accommodation in Winchester widely, looking at what else might be possible across our office estate to release capital and reduce recurring revenue costs.
“Like many organisations, we’ve been working differently since Covid, creating an opportunity for significant savings on the cost of running offices.”
The council said that as part of reviewing further buildings for lease or sale, it is still trying to find a solution for Dame Mary Fagan House in Basingstoke.
The three-storey office building currently accommodates a range of services that support children and families, including a disabled children’s team and a youth offending team.
The spokesperson added: “We are also considering whether further buildings might be identified for lease or sale, as well as vacating leased buildings to ensure maximum use of county council-owned properties.”