Government's public land sell-off needs transparency says Labour MP Meg Hillier

Lauren Fedor
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The government is widely tipped to miss its target of 200,000 new homes by 2020 (Source: Getty)
Members of the influential public accounts committee have slammed the government’s land disposal policies, saying that ministers should be “embarrassed” by the backbenchers’ findings.

Meg Hillier, the MP for Hackney South and Shoreditch who recently took the reins of the public spending watchdog from Barking MP Margaret Hodge, said today that the government’s “entire approach has been wishful thinking dressed up as public policy”, and ministers had demonstrated “alarming complacency over the future of an irreplaceable public asset.”

In the last parliament, the housing minister said that government planned to “release enough public land to build as many as 100,000 new, much-needed, homes and support as many as 25,000 jobs by 2015”.

Following an inquiry into the policy, the public accounts committee published a summary of conclusions and recommendations – among many sharp criticisms – today.

“Many thousands of people desperately need homes and an effective land disposal programme should provide two significant benefits: much-needed housing and much-needed cash for the public purse,” Hillier said.

“Yet the government has no record of how many homes have been built or are under construction. It has no record of sale proceeds, nor their value in relation to prevailing market prices.”

“There is no means of knowing whether taxpayers are getting a good deal from the sale of their land,” she added, urging the government to track and publish the number of homes built on disposed land.

“It is an insult to taxpayers that the potential economic benefits arising from the sale of public land should be put at risk by such short-sighted government mismanagement,” Hillier added.

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