Local authorities in England who are responsible for property portfolios worth around £250 billion are to be given advice on how to invest wisely.
A new set of best practice guides for local authorities on how to manage their assets effectively have been published by Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors.
The guides offer practical solutions at a time when local authorities are coming under criticism over the management of their property portfolios. Many lost considerable sums of money in the credit crisis.
RICS said that in the current economic climate councils need to ensure that they make the best use of their real estate assets.
‘Assets are a corporate resource and should be managed accordingly. Senior decision makers need to engage with the asset management agenda and make sure their authority’s assets fully support their strategic plans,’ said Keith Jones, chairman of the RICS Public Sector Executive Group.
‘These leaflets aim to assist with the policy context within which decisions are made and give suggested best practice, to ensure assets continue to play a crucial part in creating sustainable communities,’ he added.
Last month the Audit Commission, the local government spending watchdog revealed that councils in England are sitting on property worth at least £250 billion but only one in 14 is ‘exemplary’ at managing their assets. In a report it warned that some councils were getting worse at looking after their property portfolios,
Audit Commission deputy chairman Bharat Shah said councils should ask whether they needed their assets and whether they were making the best possible use of them. ‘The recession is a good time for councils to plan how to use the property they own more efficiently and possibly even to acquire assets for the future,’ he added.
The RICS guides provide an overview of the key policy areas that need to be considered by local authorities, including the transfer of assets, value for money, measuring asset performance and improving the customer’s experience.
The guidelines seek to show how assets can better support public policy and local authority initiatives, suggest how the management of assets can be integrated into corporate management and encourage members and officers to become more involved in strategic asset management.