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Entrepreneurial property management solving council budget cuts

17 April 2018

Elwick Place is part of Ashford Council's diverse property portfolio
Elwick Place is part of Ashford Council's diverse property portfolio

Ashford Borough Council reports that adopting a corporate property management strategy is helping it to become self-sufficient in the face of continuing government cuts.

It is continuing to operate more as a commercial organisation than a local authority, which it reports is helping to prepare for further funding reductions.

This will also help to manage its expanding asset portfolio, following the success of its asset acquisition strategy in recent years.

With FM service providers dealing with reduced demand from councils in many areas, the Ashford model could provide some welcome relief in Kent and other areas that follow the council's example.

The council is continuing in its aims to establish a corporate property portfolio to "contribute significantly" to its income and assist in funding other services within the Ashford area.

Its corporate property management framework was agreed at last week's cabinet meeting and will be reviewed in 12 months, then every three years.

Five key principles are included within the strategy, including the need to establish and maintain a shared central property asset database.

Safe and efficient data management is another key principle, along with a consistent and best-practice approach to property management.

Transparent and open decision making is another and the need for ongoing monitoring and review of the strategy to ensure it aligns with the council's corporate aims and objects is the fifth key principle.

Councillor Graham Galpin said progress towards the council's aim to be a commercial, self-sufficient organisation already included "significant returns" on its property portfolio investments.

It has also underwritten the cost of 80,000 sq ft of office space near Ashford International Station, due for completion this summer.

Portfolio holder for finance, budget and resource management Councillor Neil Shorter said the council's commercial approach was now creating income, reducing its reliance on government funding and helping it to set "the lowest council tax in Kent once again".

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