- Meeting of Business Overview and Scrutiny Committee, Tuesday, 29th November 2016 6.00 p.m. (Item 38.)
Presentation updating Members on progress made against the action plans from the Strategy (Strategy attached).
At the start of consideration of this item Councillor C Muspratt declared a personal interest by virtue of her being a trustee of Mayer Hall.
Councillor W Ward declared a personal interest by virtue of his former employment with the Merseyside Police and Crime Commissioner, in which he had played a role in the estates strategy of Merseyside Police.
The Committee received a presentation from Jeanette Royle, Senior Manager, Asset Management and Mandy Chesters, Manager, Asset Management on the Asset Strategy.
The Strategy’s vision was, ‘to create an efficient, fit for purpose and sustainable estate to deliver better integrated public services across Wirral and the wider city region, to support businesses and to use our assets as an enabler for economic growth and income generation.’
The five priorities in the Asset Strategy were:
1. Place Shaping
2. Policy and Strategy
3. One Public Estate
4. Financial Efficiency
5. Managing the Corporate Portfolio
The activities in Asset Management were increasingly linked to Regeneration projects which were co-ordinated through the newly established “Assets Board”. This would include further rationalisation of the Council’s estate in Birkenhead (Conway, Hamilton, Treasury, Cheshire Lines, and Old Market House) with a possibility of a New Civic Centre including co-location with partners. They outlined work to be undertaken through the One Public Estate bid in respect of the two review areas, Moreton and Bebington. The work of the newly established Wirral Property Board, comprising of the Council, Clinical Commissioning Group, Police, Fire, Magenta Living, Chamber of Commerce, Ambulance Service and Wirral Metropolitan College was also referred to along with the new Transformation Assets Board. The presentation also highlighted the contribution which assets made to the financial efficiency of the Council.
Members commented upon proposed new housing developments of 500 homes in certain areas, such as Leasowe and Moreton East and Eastham and the impact this would have on traffic, schools, shopping areas etc. and the need for a multiplicity of factors to be taken into account as and when these projects were developed. Concerns were also raised at the lack of Ward Councillor involvement when decisions were made about Council assets, in particular when any developments were undertaken at Council buildings in conservation areas.
Responding to comments from Members, the Strategic Commissioner – Growth, stated that sometimes the Council did acquire land if there were certain plots which would be advantageous to purchase and which would become part of a wider regeneration project.
A Member expressed his concerns over the lack of Councillor involvement in asset decisions when one of the roles of a Councillor was to talk to their electorate and keep them informed as to what was going on. He suggested that a paper be provided on the role of Councillors in this process.
Members concurred with these sentiments and the lack of information from Asset Management, sometimes only being made aware of issues after decisions had been taken.
In response to Members’ comments, both Jeanette Royle and Mandy Chesters commented that they would take back the concerns raised in respect of work going on in conservation areas. The Property Board was something which was new and had now had an inaugural meeting; its role was to put forward recommendations which would then be fed through to the relevant Cabinet portfolio holders.
A Member suggested that the presentation should be made to the four Constituency Committees as a first stage in keeping Members informed.
On a motion by Councillor R Abbey, seconded by Councillor J Hale, it was –
Resolved – That a report be brought to the January meeting of this Committee to describe and confirm the role of a Councillor in the Wirral Asset Strategy process.