A couple of months or so ago the Secretary of State for Local Government re-announced an idea dressed up as an initiative – that Councils would soon be able to sell unused buildings to community groups for £1. What’s more, Santa was going to provide £30million pounds of taxpayers money to help support the groups in running these buildings. Ooops they did it again, as Britney Spears once said! Doesn’t anyone in the rarefied atmosphere of Department for Communities and Local Government ever ask those of us on the ground how such a scheme might work – or more accurately, not work.

It’s all very well where there are buildings that people wouldn’t touch with a bargepole - perhaps in areas that no-one wants to live. Here in Barnet redundant buildings can be sold for a good price and the money raised recycled into fixing roads, pavements, schools etc. A prime example is our programme to rebuild or refurbish our primary schools. There’s no Government money available (yes we’ve asked - and asked - and asked) and so the £220million PSCIP as it’s known (Primary School Capital Investment programme to you) is being funded by a mixture (about half and half) of borrowing and money raised by the sale of unused assets –but if I’m expected to sell some of the underused assets for £1 – there won’t be many schools rebuilt.

So you can imagine my frustration with the bright spark in the civil service who earned a gold star from the Minister for coming up with the “Buildings for a £1” wheeze. Problem is I either disappoint thousands of parents or numerous community groups. Just another day at the Town Hall!