Councils warned over property failings

English councils are sitting on £250 billion of property assets, but only 20 per cent of council finance directors have all the information they need to manage their estates, according to an Audit Commission report published today.The report points to the uphill struggle that local authorities will face in cutting costs as the government tries to trim ballooning public sector deficits.Bharat Shah, deputy chairman of the Audit Commission, said the simultaneous collapse of the property market and the parlous state of the public finances meant that councils were going to face years of straitened living.The Treasury wants the public sector to sell off £16 billion in assets by 2012 and to save a net £300 million by 2011 through improved management of public assets - for example, by selling or subletting surplus properties.