ESSEX County Council has put the brake on moves to sell off its assets to raise cash, it has been revealed.

The council’s attempted sell-off has so far yielded £81million less than was hoped, forcing councillors to put the sale on hold until the economy picks up and property prices rise.

A report recommends delaying the sale for as long as four years in an effort to maximise its income.

County Hall says in the past five years it has sold property worth about £119million, money which has been invested in services. However, over that period, it had hoped to bring in £200million, with the recession to blame for the disappointing results It says the “book value” of the council’s total property holding has halved from £2.4billion in 2008/09 to about £1.2billion at present.

But officials insist failure to sell some property, details of which it has refused to reveal, will not have an impact on its budget.

Michael Page, council spokesman, said: “We are committed to ensure residents get value for money. One of the ways we are doing this is by selling some properties currently owned by the council which are no longer needed or used.

“The aim is to achieve £200million. So far, £119m of property has been sold, which will go towards providing services for residents.

“The fact we have properties which are yet to be sold will have no implications on the council budget.”

Although the residential market has picked up over the past six months, the commercial market is taking longer to recover. Louis Chambers, a partner in the commercial department at estate agent Fenn Wright, suggested the county council should still not rule out selling remaining properties, because markets were picking up.

He said: “Depending on the type of asset it was going to sell, if the county council were selective, it might be surprised by the demand from certain sectors.”

In the past five years, the council has sold playing fields at 23 Essex schools as part of the sell-off.

Other properties already sold include youth centres, a car park and a magistrates’ court building.