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Room for innovation, says Audit Commission

For example:

Lancashire County Council: uses an annual property performance report to help rationalise how it uses land and buildings. The Council saves £450,000 a year in maintenance costs and has improved the quality of its buildings, and cut emissions of CO2.

Sevenoaks District Council: secured higher savings than comparable local authorities by getting councillors and officers to work more closely to scrutinise assets. By disposing of surplus property the council cut its maintenance backlog by £221,000 and made revenue savings of £304,000 a year.

Wandsworth Borough Council: gave its assets rental values so managers knew how much it costs the council to occupy property; as a result they have been more creative, made savings and maximised capital receipts.

Wychavon District Council: used its property holdings to boost the local economy and improve access to public services. The council itself developed a superstore to support regeneration, earning the council rent worth £595,000 a year; it also organised the building of a community hospital on council premises.

East Riding of Yorkshire Council: made efficiency savings worth £4million through intense study of its asset base. The Council’s Corporate Property Information System centralised all its asset data at a cost of only 0.5 per cent of its property revenue expenditure.

Hampshire County Council: runs an ambitious programme to save money, improve services and transform working practices across the council.

The Commission is publishing a separate briefing on strategic asset management for councillors. It offers advice on how elected members can ensure their Council manages its property. Aimed at all councillors, it will interest those in Council Cabinets, and councillors with scrutiny or audit responsibilities.

Audit Commission Deputy Chairman, Bharat Shah said:

‘Councils across the country can learn from these innovative examples. These councils have been pragmatic: they have shared assets and worked closely with partners.

‘But they have also been imaginative. Thinking of new ways of making resources (example) at their disposal work harder, they will be better prepared to tackle the effects of the recession.

‘The briefing for elected members provides councillors – who are at the heart of improvement – with the information they need to champion strategic asset management.’

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