Cost to councils of maintaining vacant commercial properties revealed
Local authorities in the East of England wasted millions maintaining and securing vacant council-owned commercial properties in the last year for which there are official tax figures – to the end of December 2017.
It was the highest English region for the blight, second only behind the whole of Scotland in the overall UK chart.
Scotland had 1,146 properties in the roll of dishonour. The East of England had 694 empty council-owned properties and Norfolk had 108 of those compared to just 17 in Cambridge. The TaxPayers’ Alliance researched and revealed the figures.
The insurance cost to Cambridge and Cambridgeshire was £4.9 million. South Cambridgeshire, Uttlesford and Huntingdonshire report that they had no vacant properties in the review.
Between January 2016 and December 2017, at least 6,047 council-owned commercial properties were declared vacant for all or part of that time. The total cost of providing security, insurance, maintenance and renovation of these properties was just over £74m.
Non-residential properties can include farms, schools and libraries. But they also include commercial properties such as shops and warehouses.
The research highlights that many local authorities are having to spend substantial sums of money to maintain empty properties for a potential future tenant or owner.
Because so many properties are covered by council-wide group insurance policies, the true cost may be substantially higher than the stated figures suggest.
Security costs, which can vary from full-time monitoring or putting up security barriers to occasional check-ups on vacant properties, stood at almost £8m. The cost of maintaining these properties stood at more than £8m. The cost of renovating vacant commercial properties was £56.8m.
However, £51m of this figure was covered by just 11 properties.
John O’Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance said: “Councils have a duty to maintain properties for future tenants and owners, so of course some costs will be involved.
“Many people will be startled by the total cost of maintaining empty properties and want an explanation as to why these haven’t been used or sold by the council.
“At a time when families are struggling with the cost of living, and sky high council tax bills, it’s important that local authorities do all they can to ensure that they are making decisions with taxpayers in mind.”