At yesterday's Cabinet meeting of Northamptonshire County Council I addressed the Cabinet, welcoming their new asset strategy which aims to look at the effective use of the Council’s massive property portfolio. Part of this will be to do things I and the Labour Group have been calling on for years. Things such as using the Council's capital assets to generate year-on-year income for the Council, and to use the many properties that the Council have in a more business-like and efficient way. Both of these things were part of our alternative budget suggestions earlier this year.
The report talks about generating capital receipts (which is selling buildings to raise cash for the Council’s capital programme) and generating revenue streams. I pointed out there is a danger of an imbalance between those two ambitions, because clearly you can’t use the same asset for both, but welcomed the strategy in principle. I accept that how to get that balance right can be worked out as the strategy develops.
The next step is for the Council to set up a working party of senior officers, property experts, and councillors. I did also raise my hopes that opposition members might also be included in that group. I for one would be more than happy to become part of the working party, as using the Council’s assets in this way is something I wholeheartedly support. If done properly it could reduce the need to raise Council Tax while still providing much needed extra cash to increase and improve services.