Report of Acting Strategic Director, Economy, Innovation and Growth
The Committee received a report providing an update on the progress made against the Council’s Corporate Asset Strategy and Management Plan and the year on year performance of the property portfolio.
The CASMP, together with the Medium Term Financial Strategy and the Workforce Strategy, is on of three main corporate strategies that support the Thrive agenda.
The establishment of the role of Corporate Property Officer (a role held by the Strategic Director, Corporate Services and Governance since 2010 but which will transfer to the Strategic Director Economy Innovation and Growth), along with the subsequent creation of the Corporate Asset Strategy Team, continues to work well; and has the ability to take a more strategic approach to the way the portfolio is managed overall, and has enabled the Council to deliver budgetary savings through the reduction of its operational portfolio and by way of rationalisation and consolidation.
The following areas were highlighted for the Committee.
Gp2 – significant progress has been made in developing the corporate property data base; Gp2 which is now being used extensively across the Council. The database holds information on the Council’s property portfolios and is bringing together the existing, disparate asset management data sources into a single co-ordinated system, which is able to synchronise with other corporate data systems. The Corporate Asset Strategy Team (CAST) methodically tailors Gp2 for the specific needs of various users, developing new modules, updating and improving systems and creating reports to help Services make more effective use of resources and make savings.
There have been some key achievement, in particular with the completion of some major works to the Civic Centre as part of the workspace strategy improvements in the Civic Centre, including a number of areas delivering services to the public (Registrars, Cemeteries & Crematoria) or the workforce (Occupational Health). Also improved existing use of the building such that space has been freed up for partner agencies (recently Harrogate & District Foundation Trust (Health Visitor services) and Regional Transport Strategy).
Energy related projects have also been delivered: taking advantage of various external funding sources as well as the Capital Programme, and also further investment in our own district heating network, including completion of the Gateshead Energy Centre.
Community Asset Transfers have continued, with Barley Mow Village Hall, Gladstone Terrace and Springwell Village Hall completed last year.
With regards to the efficiency of the portfolio, the picture is again positive overall, starting with condition and maintenance: although the total cost of backlog maintenance has increased, this is only in the lowest priority level, and the percentage of buildings (by floorspace) in the top condition category has increased, with only one building now in the lowest (Saltwell Cemetery Garage).
In terms of energy efficiency and utilities, a particular priority for the Council of course, following the declaration of a climate emergency, we have seen a significant reduction in gas consumption, due in part to a less severe winter than the previous year, but also the transfer of the Gateshead Leisure Centre on to the District Heating Network, and also a reduction in water consumption. Electricity usage has unfortunately seen a small increase; however, you will note this is attributable primarily to former leased properties returning to the Council, and a temporary breakdown in the photovoltaic infrastructure at the Leisure Centre.
The Committee were asked to note that total electricity usage has reduced by 24% over the last eight years. The question was asked last year about whether that was simply due to the reduction in the size of the portfolio, the number of Council buildings, rather than an increase in efficiency. We are therefore now recording gas and electricity consumption per sq metre.
Also included is some detail on another measure of energy efficiency in the context of climate change, carbon emissions. Again, a very positive story supported by the data, including a 56% reduction since 2007/8. All credit to the Council’s Energy Services Team who have delivered a number of projects over the year.
The report also provides an update on the suitability and accessibility of buildings in the operational portfolio, and refers to the subsequent closure of a number of buildings in the lowest suitability categories, and that now 80% of the Council’s buildings meet the Disability Equality standard (that’s the buildings themselves: the services provided from them are still accessible).
Part 3 of the report covers income and capital from the portfolio over the year, the last year prior to the transfer of the tenanted portfolio to the Council’s partnership with PSP plc. Members will note that although there was an increase in the number of vacancies, there was a 2.6% increase in the net income from the portfolio, up to £2,360,000.
With regards to disposals, the report notes a similar sum £2.36M, which was generated from sales of Council land over the year. Significant building disposals are listed in the report as well as a detailed update on the sites developed by the Council’s Hosing Joint Venture partnership, GRP, including the number of affordable houses delivered.
Part 4 covers how the portfolio supports service delivery, including details of investment in the schools’ estate. There is nothing specific to highlight in this part of the report for the Committee.
Part 5 identifies future actions which are expected to form delivery of the Corporate Asset & Management Plan over the next year, much of which is already well under way.
The work of the team was highlighted to the Committee who deliver a great deal with ever-diminishing resources.
RESOLVED - That the information provided in the report be noted.