Agenda item

Draft Assets Disposal Policy - Agenda Item 5

To receive a presentation and to note the accompanying draft policy on the Corporate Assets Disposals Policy.


The committee considered a report and presentation on the Draft Assets Disposal Policy and noted the information received.


The Chair welcomed Cllr Ros Wyke, Lead Member for Economic Development, Planning and Assets to introduce the item. Cllr Wyke began by reminding members of the context of the policy (how and why the policy has been written) before introducing Sally Stark, Assets Manager from the Strategic Asset Management Team to talk members through the presentation slides.


The following comments and questions were received and discussed with members:


Regarding property sold under value - Who values the assets, how, and what percentage of assets are sold under value? - Members were advised that valuations may be done in house, or by external valuers. Some assets, such as community interest asset transfers may be sold under value, and in those cases a full justification for this would be given. i.e., need for social housing. 


Is there a missing action in this policy in terms of ensuring that the Council are improving the value of its assets for sale. 


Regarding disposal of assets, we need an effective triage system to sift the disposals dependent on many factors I.e., social value, community impact, commercial gain etc... Different markers have different needs.  


Regarding assets that have been in public ownership for some time, are we safeguarding these assets. I.e., assets with important environmental features (trees) or assets that have a significant community benefit that ought to be protected? - Members were reassured that The Council employs specialists, both in house and from external agencies to ensure that the due diligence is given to all of the factors above, and that it is imperative that members feel that they can trust the professionals. This process will be transparent, members will be kept informed, and any significant decisions will be taken by the Asset Management Group.


How many properties (and what is there value) are sold under market value, particularly farms that are occupied by tenants? - The Asset Manager advised that this detail would need to be brought back to this committee outside of the meeting. 


Would the ward councillor be notified of any assets that are being considered for sale? - The Asset Manager advised that this would be the case, apart from small sites where there has been no significant community impact or political sensitivities identified. 


Regarding smallholdings and community gardens used for food production and community resilience, would these be available at below market value? - The Asset Manager advised that The Council certainly consider these sorts of proposals on a case-by-case basis. Cllr Wyke added that any disposal of County Farms would be dealt with under a separate policy, and that it is the priority of this council to keep farmers safe.


Regarding disposal of small sites, who is overseeing the decision-making process on these? - The Asset Manager assured members that proposals for the disposal of small sites are circulated amongst the Asset Management Group members for their consideration before a decision is made and that the local ward member would be notified also.


Regarding the full list of Council assets that are being considered for disposal, could this be shared with members and/or this committee? - The Head of Property informed that a pipeline document of disposal considerations does exist and is shared with the Asset Management Group. It is important to remember that disposal of assets can take years in some instances, and assets can sit on this pipeline document for a very long time. In addition, the list of assets that are being considered for disposals is very commercially sensitive and should therefore be treated as private and confidential. 


Regarding Somerset Council’s total estate (land and property previously owned by the five legacy councils) can a full list be shared with this committee? - The Head of Property advised that this detail sits within HM Land Registry (public records), adding that he is happy to share the links to this data with the committee.


Regarding the most recent budget gap identified in the last MTFP monitoring, are we at risk of being forced to sell assets under value? - The Asset Manager advised that asset would always be sold at ‘best value’, and although ‘best value’ can change over time due to market conditions, there is no risk that assets would be significantly undervalued due to budget pressures. 


Regarding the climate emergency and decarbonisation of the Councils estate, are we going to be disposing of assets that are not energy efficiency, or that have been deemed as the more costly to decarbonise? - The Asset Manager reassured members that this is indeed another factor that would be considered in any decisions made regarding asset disposal. 


A non-committee member online asked about County Farms disposals and protecting tenants – The Head of Property reassured members that any valuations of County Farms would take into consideration the terms and conditions of the tenancy.  


A non-committee member online asked how many properties on the pipeline disposals document have a community asset value attached to them? – The Asset Manager informed members that she could share this detail with the committee outside of the meeting.    


In summary the Chair reiterated that the draft Asset Disposals Policy demonstrates how decision making is based on many contributing factors including but not limited to strategic need, commercial gain, capital receipts and a fine balance of corporate and community benefit. He thanked officers and members for attending to scrutinise the draft policy, concluding that the committee had considered the report and noted the information provided.     

Supporting documents: