Property company idea splits opinion

By <b>Ian Dipple Friday 14 March 2014 Updated: 14/03 10:48

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A PRIVATE company run by the public sector could be set up to manage buildings which could save millions of pounds to plough into frontline services.

Redditch Borough Council has agreed to further explore a ground-breaking deal with Worcestershire County Council, Worcester City Council, police, fire and Worcestershire Health and Care Trust to create a new company that would manage properties and other assets.

Reducing staff and other costs by creating one central property management unit would trim £110.7million from revenue budgets over ten years which could be used to support other day-to-day services, while the deal could also raise £118million through the sale of unwanted buildings.

Worcestershire County Council could save £49million alone and Redditch Borough Council some £400,000 by 2025. Each organisation would remain the owner of the relevant properties but would have equal shares in the company.

It is expected all groups will have decided by mid-April whether or not to continue with the proposal and it could be up and running by April 2015.

But Labour councillors on Worcestershire County Council have accused the ruling-Tory group of ‘daylight robbery’ and a sell-off of the county’s ‘crown jewels and silver’.

Labour leader Peter McDonald suggested the company being formed would eventually be sold off cheaply to a private firm, taking the county’s country parks and farms with them.

“To cart off the county’s assets in such a cavalier fashion is reckless and will leave the county penniless.”

But Coun John Campion, responsible for transformation and commissioning, dismissed the idea the county’s assets were at risk of being sold-off, but added they would not tie the hands of any future administration.

“We are saying very clearly at this point we are not giving up any sovereignty, we are not giving away any assets, we are not giving away any income what we are doing, is we are working together to maximise savings and indeed the value when we come to develop something,” he told a recent cabinet meeting.

“If we ever propose giving up any of our family silver or giving away anything, first of all it would be over my dead body, and second of all there will be a full and frank debate by elected members. We are nowhere near that territory.”

It was later confirmed if one of the organisations wanted to involve a private firm then potentially the entire company would have to be disbanded.

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