Council Cabinet approves five year Strategic Asset Management Strategy

Westmorland and Furness Council’s ‘Strategic Asset Management Strategy 2024-2029’ was approved by cabinet on 4 June.  It sets out how the council will manage and maintain council owned land and buildings over the next five years.

The strategy was developed by the Council’s Corporate Assets Team with the assistance of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) in line with best practice.

Local Authorities across the UK hold large property portfolios (assets made up of buildings and land) which have been acquired, gifted or inherited over many years. Westmorland and Furness Council’s property portfolio extends to over 1,200 separately listed land and building assets, with a current total book value of over £390 million (as of 1st April 2023) (excluding infrastructure assets and vehicles, plant, furniture and equipment). The total book value is based on accounting requirements and does not reflect the potential value that the Council may receive if it was to sell those assets. It does however demonstrate that the Council has a considerable resource in respect of its land and buildings portfolio and why they need to be carefully managed.

Some of these buildings and land will be essential for delivering effective and vital services to communities and service users in the future. Others are no longer fit for purpose, possibly being in the wrong place, not suitable for modern approaches to working and/or service delivery. Other assets may simply be duplicates due to several organisations forming into one as a result of the creation of Westmorland and Furness Council.

Allan Harty, Assistant Director for Corporate Assets, Fleet and Capital Programme said:

“Managing public sector property assets effectively ensures value for money, enhances public services and helps boost economic, environmental and social outcomes.”

“To achieve our vision, priorities and values as a council we need to ensure that we use all our resources in the most effective ways possible, which especially includes our land and buildings. “

“Our role is to develop a land and property portfolio which supports the Council’s Vision, ensuring value for money and demonstrates our commitment in the drive to become carbon net zero, whilst protecting and enhancing the natural environment.  It must be fit for purpose, support inclusivity and green growth, empower our communities and provide opportunities for proactive working with partners for the benefit of our area.”

The plan will be reviewed annually and it will take several years to fully understand and challenge how buildings are currently used and plan how they can be utilised in the future.  

The strategy comprises three separate elements including an Asset Management Policy/Vision, an Asset Management Strategy and an Asset Management Working Action Plan.

The Asset Management Working Action Plan provides clear and measurable actions that will be implemented over the short term, as part of delivering the Strategic Asset Management Strategy.

Mr Harty added:

“The Strategy will be reviewed and amended within five years to ensure our assets fully support the Council’s overarching vision: ‘A great place to live, work and thrive’. by contributing to key corporate objectives and optimising the nature and alignment of our assets.  Without careful management, there is potential to waste money by keeping buildings that are not fit for use or unnecessary. Equally, all assets have a value and if they are no longer required they can be declared surplus to operational requirements and then they will follow the stages in the Councils Disposal Policy to determine any future use of the asset or whether disposal is the preferred option.”

“As the way we deliver services change, our assets will also need to change to support the Council as it moves forward. We may need to invest in new assets to ensure we provide services fit for the future and to maximise benefits to the people of Westmorland and Furness. In all cases, all assets must be managed to the appropriate standards of health and safety.”

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