House builders England UK housing property
The government wants to see 160,000 homes built on the public land it is putting up for sale Getty

Whitehall departments are too slow at releasing public land for housebuilding, a report by MPs has concluded, and the government is on course to miss its target unless there is a "significant acceleration".

The government wants 160,000 homes to be built on public land by April 2020. There is a programme to release publicly-owned land to developers to achieve this.

But a report by parliament's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said departments have been slow to release land, noting for example that the Department of Communities and Local Government had so far released just 12% of its target disposal of land, while the Department for Transport had released even less — just 0.2% of its goal.

"Sluggish sales have hindered progress towards the 2020 target while questions continue to hang over the potential of many sites earmarked for sale and whether homes will be in the places people want to live," said Meg Hillier MP, chair of the PAC.

"Ultimately the public will judge the success of this programme on the basis of the homes built and the government must make clear who taxpayers should hold to account for this."

There is an ongoing housing shortage in the UK. The government wants to build a million new homes by 2020, but current construction rates are falling well short of this.