Select Committee on Defence First Report

Sale of TA centres

31. As with the management of other areas of the MoD estate, the restructuring proposals are being used as an opportunity to dispose of assets regarded as no longer essential. At present, there are 455 TA centres. The MoD announced that, as part of the restructuring of the TA, they are to sell 87 TA centres. Twenty-seven of the remaining centres will be retained solely to accommodate cadet force units, which will leave 341 for use by the TA.[100] The Minister told us that there were many factors that determined the choice of TA centres to be sold—

   We have had to look at whether there is a need for a unit at a particular location. We have had to look at whether there are alternative locations nearby when one particular location has closed. We have had to look at whether the location can match the functional need in that area. We have had to look at the footprint generally. We have had to look at the cadets. There has been a whole series of factors built in.[101]

He argued that "once those factors have been taken into account and all other things are equal then of course we will maximise our revenue in disposal of assets but only once these other factors have been taken into account"[102] and that, "there are some excellent properties that we are keeping that if maximising revenue was the name of the game we would have got rid of".[103]

32. The MoD expects to recoup in the region of £52 million from the sale of these assets, though this figure does not include receipts from the sale of the Duke of York's Headquarters in Chelsea.[104] The Minister acknowledged that due to fluctuations in the property market, a more specific figure could not be given.[105] While the MoD cannot provide a timetable for the sale of the properties it was stressed that, subject to operational needs, the sales would go through as soon as possible.[106] However, our witnesses from the TAVRAs were less confident that the monies will arrive as early as the MoD hopes[107] as they believe that what is being presented for sale is very much "a mixed bag".[108]

33. The TAVRAs were sceptical that the rationale underlying the choice of sites for disposal had been properly thought through. They gave us examples of where they felt that the logic had been flawed. They argued that had they been fully consulted they could have delivered on an MoD instruction either to sell a specified number of centres, or to achieve a specific level of capital receipts.[109] Of the starting point of these sales, Colonel Putnam said that—

If you are doing this scientifically, you would start with a clean piece of paper, would you not? Because of the mêlée of the last two weeks before the announcement, some of the decisions to retain TA centres have been based on political criteria rather than logic. If that actually happens, you will finish up with things that do not seem quite proper.[110]

Examples given by the TAVRAs of this perceived absence of logic included selling off one of the TA centres of 3 Cheshires in which the TAVRAs have invested hundreds of thousands of pounds while retaining a site in Crewe which the TAVRAs had programmed for disposal, and moving a TA centre at Chorley to Queensferry in Wales for no apparent reason other than to move it across the border.[111] A more thorough description of more deep-seated problems with the sale of the Duke of York's Headquarters, including planning constraints arising from its listed status and substantial errors in its investment appraisal, was given to the Committee by Colonel Sellon.[112]

34. The Minister assured the Committee that the TAVRAs would continue to be consulted on the sale of the TA Centres.[113] The TAVRAs have a great deal of expertise in property management and will play a central role in the administration of the sales. We expect the MoD to be responsive to TAVRA advice on the disposal of TA centres, and where that advice is found to be valid for it to be acted upon by the MoD, even if this involves reconsidering individual sites earmarked for sale. We also recommend some openness about this process of consultation—we expect the Minister to be able to defend choices made on 'political' rather than commercial grounds.

100  Modern Forces for a Modern World: A Territorial Army for the Future, Volume 1, para 18 Back

101   Q 175 Back

102   ibid Back

103   ibid Back

104   Q 184 Back

105   Q 183 Back

106   Q 176 Back

107   Q 59 Back

108   Q 60 Back

109   QQ 59-65 Back

110   Q 44 Back

111   Q 50 Back

112   QQ 51-55 Back

113   Q 187 Back

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Prepared 11 February 1999