That the report be noted.
The Chief Officer (Housing & Assets) introduced a report setting out the method of asset management planning and the use of asset registers, and the Council’s use in practice.
He provided an overview of the key points in developing a long-term asset strategy to optimise assets and link to the Council Plan objectives. The approach to managing assets, in respect of investment and maintenance, took account of good practice parameters set by the Wales Audit Office. The various Asset Management Plans and overarching strategy were brought together in a Corporate Asset Management Plan (CAMP) which was currently under review and due to be shared in November. As at 31 March 2019, the total balance for public assets of property and land was valued at £762m; this figure was subject to fluctuation depending on market conditions.
The Finance Manager (Technical Accountancy) provided explanation on the link between asset planning and the Capital Programme through to the Statement of Accounts where the value of fixed assets was recorded each year in accordance with requirements.
Councillor Heesom referred to a document in which the Council had responded to an asset management query survey by Welsh Government (WG) a few years before. Whilst acknowledging the advice and guidance required from officers, he stressed the importance of constructive involvement by Members and requested more detailed information on the asset management framework and its application to front-line services. In referring to the total value of the Council’s assets, he asked that the Leader consider the document he referred to and the level of Member involvement on the process. He also suggested that the document be shared with Members.
In receiving a copy of the document, Councillor Roberts said that he was unaware of it. He said it would have been helpful to share it beforehand and agreed to give it due consideration.
Councillor Peers also referred to the document shared by Councillor Heesom. He spoke about Members having access to the register of corporate property, agricultural estate and industrial units and asked whether a condition survey had been undertaken on the latter. He said it was important to monitor void assets to maximise income to the Council.
In response to a further question, the Finance Manager confirmed that the total value stated was the net figure after depreciation. She drew attention to the table in the report which set out the measurement base and frequency of valuation, as prescribed.
Following a question by Councillor Bateman, the Finance Manager advised that the Council’s housing stock was valued at £203m as at 31 March 2019. She went on to clarify the valuation method of ‘existing use value’ for social housing.
In response to Councillor Heesom’s concerns about Member consultation on the future of County Hall, Councillor Roberts replied that the topic had been discussed by Cabinet and that the option to call-in the decision had not been used.
The Chief Officer (Governance) said that key decisions about the asset base of the Council had been taken openly by Cabinet in line with the agreed strategy to reduce the number of physical sites, including Council premises. This approach had achieved savings in national non-domestic rates (NNDR) and improved working conditions for employees. The decision to transfer some Council functions to Ewloe would enable the phased demolition of County Hall which would in turn reduce the Council’s footprint and generate revenue.
Following a question by the Chairman on industrial units and voids, the Chief Officer (Housing & Assets) advised that occupation rates were currently high and that due to the age of some of that stock, a review would be undertaken to establish the best course of action relating to the future of its industrial units. With regard to void housing stock, the issue to the Council was the loss of rental income and if empty over the longer term, would be subject to the Council Tax premium which was charged to the Housing Revenue Account.
On ‘assets held for sale’ in the glossary of the report, Councillor Peers queried consistent application of the criteria to achieve the best valuation. He made reference to a query he had raised on the valuation of land at Maes Gwern to which he was awaiting a response. The Finance Manager said that the wording in the report was the prescribed criteria for the classification of assets and that land not ready to be sold would be held in ‘surplus assets’. The Chief Officer (Housing & Assets) provided clarification on the outcome of the transfer of land at Maes Gwern as part of the Council’s Strategic Housing and Regeneration Programme (SHARP).
Councillor Jones described the asset register as a technical document governed by strict rules and said that the Committee should note the report. In moving the recommendation, he asked that the CAMP be included in the Forward Work Programme for the next meeting.
Councillor Banks sought clarification on the nature of Councillor Peers’ question.
The Chief Officer (Governance) explained that the transfer of that site involved use of a private firm to value the land, which was a practice often used by other councils when selling land.
Having reviewed the document shared by Councillor Heesom, the Chief Officer (Housing & Assets) said that it was historic given that the job titles mentioned no longer existed. The Chief Officer (Governance) advised that the process for disposal of assets had changed since that time.
In seconding the recommendation, Councillor Shotton said that the report offered an insight into the rigorous strategy on asset management prior to receiving the AMP in November. He said that the approach had significantly evolved over the years and paid tribute to the Council’s investment in assets such as schools, housing and highways.
That the report be noted.