Council chiefs grilled over cost of maintaining empty buildings

County chiefs have been grilled after overspending on buildings currently left sitting empty.

Thursday, 24th October 2019, 2:16 pm
Updated Sunday, 27th October 2019, 1:09 pm

According to reports prepared for Durham County Council, eight properties across the county cost £67,000 more than expected in 2018/19.

A question on the ‘building and facilities overspend’ was put to bosses at a meeting of the full council on Wednesday October 23 by Liberal Democrat councillor Bev Coult.

She asked: “With 57 council buildings not in use this year, can the Portfolio Holder explain the logic of having a budget of only £31,198 specifically allocated to these 57 properties and inform council of the current projected year-end spend on these buildings?”

In response, Coun Kevin Shaw, cabinet member for strategic housing and assets, said the council was ‘constantly reviewing’ its estate and since 2009 had made made ‘millions’ from sales, as well as making ‘significant revenue savings’.

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He added: “While some spend on unoccupied buildings is essential, there are inevitably unforeseen circumstances where additional expenditure is required.

“We will continue to keep this to a minimum by taking steps to bring buildings back into use or declaring properties surplus as soon as possible.

“Spend on these buildings is difficult to predict and any shortfall is met from other service budgets.”

Durham County Council has a section of its website dedicated to “council land and buildings for sale”.

It states: “We regularly sell various buildings and areas of land. This page gives details of what's currently available. Examples of the type of land and buildings often for sale include surplus housing stock; individual development plots; large residential sites.”