Labour seizing homes while offices in Whitehall are empty
Labour was today accused of "rank hypocrisy" over new laws to seize private property as it emerged that scores of government-owned homes and acres of Whitehall office space are lying vacant.
New research showed that ministerial grace-and-favour flats - including palatial apartments for the Home Secretary and Foreign Secretary - are unoccupied.
The Highways Agency also has 103 homes empty for more than six months, with six habitable houses vacant for more than 12 years.
New Parliamentary answers re- vealed that Whitehall has a further 260,000 sq ft of empty office space - equivalent to 62 acres of vacant rooms - largely because civil servants have moved out of London.
The state's failure to use its own properties was in sharp contrast to "draconian" new legal orders and should abolish the Empty Dwelling Management Orders, which give town halls the power to seize private homes that lie empty for as little as six months.
At EDMO hearings councils have tried to seize the home of a blind man, grab an old man's house as soon as he died in a nursing home, and confiscate the home of a mother caring for her injured daughter in France.
However, EDMOs cannot be used against government property.
"It is a scandal that homes owned by the Government lie empty for years, while bully-boy laws let state bureaucrats seize the homes of the dead and vulnerable.
"It's the height of Labour hypocrisy.We will scrap these draconian powers. Instead focus on renting or selling off the inefficient acres of government real estate. This will save taxpayers' money and put more homes on the market." Empty government properties include:
The Foreign Secretary's Grade I-listed flat in Carlton Gardens, vacant since 2007 as David Miliband prefers to live at home in Primrose Hill.
David Blunkett's former grace-and- favour flat, empty since April 2007 and recently occupied by squatters.
Three Admiralty House flats - for Lord Malloch Brown, Lord Falconer and Geoff Hoon - costing £173,000 a year each to run. Ministers refuse to rent them out to civil servants.
Mr Shapps said the Tories would open up Whitehall databases of surplus land and buildings to public inspection and transfer all central government property into publicly owned asset companies.
Click to view image: 'HOUSE THEFT ON A GRAND SCALE BY THE STATE'
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