POLITICS

NHS Slammed Over £4 Million 'Waste Of Cash' On Empty Buildings

06/01/2014 10:55 GMT | Updated 25/01/2014 21:01 GMT
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The National Health Service has been criticised after it admitted wasting £3.8 million on property taxes for the 122 empty buildings it owns, which is enough to pay for 265 extra nurses.

Critics lashed out at the "incredible waste of cash" by NHS Property Services, the government-owned company set up with a mandate to "keep costs to a minimum and pass back savings to the NHS”.

Tory MP Charlotte Leslie, member of the Commons Health Select committee, told the Huffington Post UK: "Since its creation, the NHS Property Services has had questions to answer. The Department of Health has not given straight forward responses to parliamentary questions and it has not been made sufficiently clear that due civil service protocol was observed in setting up what is an enormous company holding £5bn of public assets.

"This revelation is another blow to the taxpayer. I very much hope clear answers can be given over details on how the company was formed, this issue of rates can be very swiftly resolved and that after a very inauspicious start, the Property Services company can start to deliver value for money for the taxpayer."

The furore broke out as NHS Property Services revealed its total bill for the financial year from 1 April 2013 after a Freedom of Information request from Estates Gazette.

Robert Oxley, Campaign Director of the TaxPayers' Alliance told the Huffington Post UK: "Taxpayers shouldn't have to pay for the ridiculous bureaucracy needed to charge empty NHS buildings for business rates.

"This is an incredible waste of NHS cash that demonstrates the burden that empty property rates can put on people. NHS Property Services must urgently offload empty sites to reduce this bill and to free them up for development."

NHS Property Services manages around 4,000 assets on behalf of 150 abolished Primary Care Trusts and 10 Strategic Health Authorities, with plans to dispose of 276 properties.

A Department of Health spokesman said: “The way the NHS estate was previously managed was inefficient and costly. NHS Property Services will help generate money that can be redirected to the front line and provide land for more homes for hardworking families by selling land the NHS no longer needs.”

An NHS Property Services spokesman said: “NHS Property Services was established on 1 April 2013, at which point the company took over responsibility for 70% of PCT estate (around 4,000 properties), including a number of historically vacant properties.

"Current business rates are based on rating assessments made in 2005 and 2010, before NHS Property Services was formed. We are reviewing the rating assessments on all our properties with a view to appealing any that are found to be too high and making savings where possible.

“The company is on track to dispose of a number of properties which are surplus to NHS operational requirements. The decision as to whether one of our properties is surplus resides with the commissioners – NHS England or a clinical commissioning group (CCG).”