(A report by Andy Fisher, Assistant Director – Assets)
The Assistant Director – Assets (and Lead Officer for the committee) presented the report confirming that as Sovereign Councils and as a Partnership, it had been recognised that the effective use of land and property assets formed one of the essential ingredients for high quality service delivery and creating and ensuring value for our residents. The aim was to manage a well-planned and well maintained property portfolio, ensuring that the Partnership could demonstrate value for money and, more importantly, that by using its’ assets well, secure wide value for our community.
Whilst previous plans had been taken into consideration, the Asset Strategy was purposefully drafted to be high level in that it set out the guiding principles of Asset Management for SELCP, and only set a focussed number of high level actions, in order to shape and drive the detailed work necessary to manage and maintain our assets.
Although it superseded each Council’s highest level Asset Management Plan, it did not immediately supersede the various process and policy documents that sat below those Plans that existed across the SELCP, as those documents may or indeed may not need amendment following a ‘detailed review of the detail’; for example, South Holland District Council’s 2020 Industrial Unit Lettings Policy remained fit for purpose and would not become defunct as a result of the Strategy.
The strategy would have a five year scope with five strategic priorities set out, driving the monitoring, review and updating of the Strategy to ensure it remained relevant and fit for purpose throughout. It also covered all of each Council’s operational and non-operational general fund assets.
HE Partnership Councils each had a diverse asset base which included land and buildings used in part of wholly to deliver services, with many car parks and open spaces within each respective areas. They further had income generating assets including commercial and industrial units along with land and property concessions let to the market at commercial rates. Community assets included country parks and various recreational areas.
The guiding principles of this strategy were to:
· Promote the efficient, effective and sustainable use of land and buildings and protect and optimise the value of all general fund Council assets to each Council and the communities they serve
· Generate efficiency gains, capital receipts and most importantly, maximise revenue income in order to ‘self-fund’ repairs and maintenance as far as possible and use any surpluses to support other council services
· Ensure that our assets are appropriately maintained and that all statutory land and property requirements are always met or exceeded
· Pursue innovative accommodation solutions that meet each council’s current and future needs
· Reduce carbon emissions and improve environmental sustainability wherever a and whenever it is reasonably practicable to do so
Committee deliberation followed which included:
On questioning the first two bullet points on page 16 a member queried that they did not read in a compatible manner and it was agreed to remove the word only from the first bullet point to read assets should be retained.
A further suggestion noted that it would be beneficial to have a member briefing on the subject too enable members to understand the process moving forward.
There was overall agreement at the alignment to a single team to create resilience across the partnership but caution was urged in respect of any disposal of an asset which was emotive to the electorate and members were reassured that consultation would take place ahead of any final determination by the Cabinet, with significant assets being declared as surplus to go through to full scrutiny ahead of any decision being made.
Confirmation was further provided that Boston and SHDC would raise their current level asset management to that of ELDC with reiteration that all decision would be at Sovereign level with all decision being made by for Boston assets by Boston.
Responding to questions raised by a non-committee member the Assistant Director – Assets advised that all assets would be under review including the Municipal Buildings with ELDC having already downsized its office infrastructure which had proved highly successful and cost effective. The new strategy would not only look at disposal of assets but also enable consideration of acquisitions moving forward. SHDC housing stock income was not included. The intent was that that the three authorities would each have an independent stand-alone contract with Technology Forge and in response to a question asking if an outcomes of the strategy would involve redundancies, replied that he anticipated growth and not redundancies.
That the Corporate and Community Committee having considered the draft at Appendix 1 commented on:
· its form and purpose;
· the ‘guiding principles’ suggested at section 1.4;
· the suggested ‘strategic approach’ to asset management at section 2.6;
· the five draft ‘strategic priorities’ set out and the delivery date proposed
· and subject to the amendment to the first bullet point on page 16 to take out the word only from the context,