18 April 2018 | Marino Donati
Ashford Borough Council is to create a central property asset database as part of a new corporate property portfolio management strategy.
The Kent council has been building a corporate property portfolio that it says will make a significant contribution to its income, as it faces delivering services when grant funding from the government will fall to zero by 2019/20.
Its corporate portfolio includes the International House office block, Park Mall Shopping Centre and Wilko retail unit, the Elwick Place cinema, hotel and restaurant complex, Ellingham Industrial Estate, and retail units at Stanhope.
The strategy's five key principles include setting up and maintaining a shared central property asset database.
This will enable informed and synchronised decision-making and help to identify asset specific compliance and risk assessment, and consistent property management and reporting, according to the strategy document.
The safe and efficient management of data, which will include condition schedules, leases, asset valuations and asbestos surveys is another key principle. Safeguards will be implemented to protect against input error and cyberattack.
A uniform approach to property management will ensure that recommended practices and techniques are used and standards maintained throughout the council.
Transparent and open decision-making will mean that information would only be withheld from the public domain until announcements can be made, in exceptional circumstances, such as commercial sensitivity or legal privilege.
An annual report on the financial performance of each property in the portfolio will be compiled as part of measures for ongoing monitoring and review.
Cllr Graham Galpin, portfolio holder for corporate property, said the council was seeing significant returns from its acquisitions.
"I'm confident this new strategy will help us to continue delivering terrific results on behalf of our local residents," he added.
Councillor Neil Shorter, portfolio holder for finance, budget and resource management, said: "We continue to earn money through our commercial approach, rather than relying on central government or our residents for this additional income. It has helped us to set the lowest council tax in Kent once again, while maintaining services for the benefit of our residents."
The decision to adopt the strategy was agreed at a council cabinet meeting on 12 April. It will be reviewed in 12 months, and then every three years after that.
Potential acquisitions will be considered with regard to the expected rate of return as well as job creation and training opportunities. Regular property performance reviews will indentify whether disposals need to be made.