A MASS sell-off of public sector buildings in Worcestershire has been given the greed light by the county council - in the hope it can generate £118 million for front line services.
A unique plan among the county's biggest public sector employers is set to kick off which will see scores of unneeded properties belonging to councils, the police, NHS and fire service flogged.
The project, first revealed by your Worcester News yesterday, was supported by County Hall's Conservative cabinet today despite strong opposition from Labour.
Labour said the council was "trying to sell the family silver" but the leadership said the project was about raising extra funds for services and getting rid of clunky, expensive properties.
Assets like the Guildhall, County Hall and Hindlip are off bounds but other buildings deemed not fit-for-purpose because they are empty, derelict, not needed or too expensive to run are in line to be sold.
The project is expected to include seven different bodies including the county council, Worcester City Council, the NHS trust, West Mercia Police, Redditch Borough Council, the fire service and Warwickshire Police.
A report on it says by sharing office space, downsizing and selling off property it will save the county council alone £49 million in maintenance costs over the next decade, and could result in an estimated £118 million of combined sales.
Councillor John Campion, county council cabinet member for transformation and commissioning, said: "This is another example of an area where we've got a great history, but we are planning to turn up the heat and do things differently.
"We spend millions on supporting our properties, this proposal is about working together and saving money.
"Our number one priority is supporting growth in the economy and by working as one we want to not only get maximum value for the taxpayer but maximum value for the economy."
During clashes with the opposition Councillor Peter McDonald, Labour group leader, said his rivals were "selling the family silver" and claimed "crown jewels" are under threat.
But Councillor Simon Geraghty, deputy leader, said "nobody wants to see resources tied up in empty buildings".
Councillor Adrian Hardman, the leader, said: "We estimate it will save us £49 million in revenue alone over the next 10 years - that will have a direct impact on funding the front line, it's an entirely sensible move."
A business plan is being put together and the other bodies will be asked to make final decisions on their commitment to it in the coming months.
The seven organisations spend £56 million a year on building costs.
Councillor Marcus Hart, the cabinet member for health and well-being said: "That is taxpayers' money we are talking about, I 100 per cent endorse all the recommendations because we need to spend this on services, not buildings."
The project is being monitored carefully by the Government, which believes Worcestershire is breaking new ground with the project.