WORTHING has given a spirited response to government demands that councils and other public bodies should publish “asset lists” to identify billions of pounds of potential savings and protect frontline services.
Communities and local government secretary Eric Pickles wants public sector organisations, including councils, to publish registers of all buildings and land owned. Local people could use the lists alongside the Localism Bill’s new community rights to protect local treasures, he said.
Mr Pickles said the public had a right to see the scope of public sector asset wealth, which in some cases included pubs, farms and even sports clubs. A government “demo map” has revealed more than 180,000 assets owned by almost 600 public sector bodies, including 87 councils.
The map refers to 11 Worthing locations – “Amusement Hall The Pier, Grafton Centre Bowling, Southern Pavilion, The Lido, The Pier Pavilion, New Pavilion, the Aquarena, Worthing Indoor Bowling Club, Worthing Rowing and Sports Club, Connaught Theatre, Ritz Cinema.”
Mr Pickles said: “We need to know, now more than ever, exactly what assets are publicly owned.
“The general public probably have no idea of the sheer scale and scope of property and land on the public sector’s books. In many cases it goes way beyond traditional frontline services.
“I want the public sector to take a good, hard look at what they own. By cataloguing each and every asset, councils can help government find innovative new ways to utilise them, improve local services, keep council running costs down and save taxpayers’ money.
“This asset information also holds huge potential for local communities, offering an at-a-glance way to find that new meeting place or rescue the derelict tennis court round the corner.”
But Worthing Council leader Paul Yallop yesterday defended the council’s record on the matter.
“We have been doing that in Worthing for a good few years. We have disposed of the Eirene Road/Sea Place land in order to provide funds for the Aquarena replacement, and at the Grafton bowling centre we have recently renewed the lease in response to strong local demand for the facility’s continuance.”
Mr Yallop said other facilities were being provided to meet local residents’ wishes. “Our performance over the last few years has been good,” he added.