LETTER - ‘Councils are there to serve, not to acquire wealth’
Norfolk County Council has just completed its public consultation process regarding a ‘Have Your Say’ on how cuts and savings can be made.
Earlier this year, the National Audit Commission published a document which urges all councils to concentrate on asset management policies. This would include selling off of some council-owned properties and to exact greater income from properties in existence. This is not privatisation of services but a way to release income to help pay for services rather than councils sitting on capital values.
One local authority in the Midlands was able to encourage some employees to work from home with the result of two departments merging into one building rather than two, with considerable income gained from selling of a council-owned property.
Following a request I made to Norfolk County Council, I received information that the authority owned approximately 4,500 acres and that the total value of all council-owned property and land owned by NCC was £834 million as valued in January 2014.
In my ‘Have Your Say’ submission, I suggested asset management policies to reduce the value to £700 million with £134 million to shift to service provision. Not only would there be no need for cuts but there could be a mixture of extra spending and a reduction in council tax. According to the NAC councils throughout, England and Wales literally own billions of pounds of property and land. Councils are there primarily to provide services to the community, not to acquire capital value wealth.