BCP Council has no single list of assets (and it could be years before one exists)

BCP Council has no single list of assets (and it could be years before one exists) <i>(Image: Newsquest)</i>
BCP Council has no single list of assets (and it could be years before one exists) (Image: Newsquest)

NO SINGLE list of BCP Council’s assets exists almost four years after local government reorganisation in Dorset.

The local authority has said it could still take a couple of years for the data from the three predecessor council’s to be fully collated.

Focus has been on BCP Council’s portfolio of property as civic leaders moved to plug a £20million hole in this year’s transformation programme budget following the collapse of the beach hut sell off plan.

In September, the council received a minded to letter from Government to borrow the sum through a capitalisation direction subject to strict criteria.

However, the Conservative administration changed tack, favouring an attempt to sell “non-strategic assets” before the end of the current financial year.

Earlier this month councillors approved disposing of a number of industrial properties and a residential building in what opposition groups have labelled as a “firesale”.

The Daily Echo requested a list of all ‘non-strategic’ assets but a senior officer said “no simple list” existed.

The council said it has more than 2,600 assets split across three systems from the three previous borough councils. It had taken “longer than first expected” to migrate to one system, with “Covid and other reasons” behind this.

Asked to explain why no list existed as the council heads towards four years since it was founded, a spokesperson said: “The consolidation of asset data onto a single IT system and associated mapping functionality is a highly specialised and technical undertaking. This work must be undertaken whilst still maintaining business-as-usual services to council officers and the public.

“There are thousands and thousands of records relating to all types of property and estate management information. Assistance with this project was also required from IT, but due to Covid and urgent transformation activities, the works were not deemed a high priority.

“Naturally, during the pandemic, much of the council’s available resources were directed towards helping our residents deal with the effects of Covid on their lives and local businesses.

“This is also an opportunity to review and thoroughly validate the information brought together from legacy authorities both within IT systems and paper records. Estates professionals took the view this was essential to the efficient and effective management of the estate moving forwards.”

The spokesperson said data for Bournemouth was already completed and Poole should be finished by April, however, Christchurch data “could take a couple of years”. At present the authority has “skeletal records” on the Christchurch system.

Asked how the council could confidently carry out an asset disposal process at speed in these circumstances, the spokesperson said: “The estates team has a wealth of knowledge and experience regarding the assets across BCP Council.

“As property professionals, many of whom are fully qualified and members of the RICs, they are skilled enough to make sound recommendations to senior leadership.”

Until last month the council had refused to name the assets it intended to sell, citing commercial sensitives.

The assets named as being set for disposal were Wessex Trade Centre in Poole, Airfield Industrial Estate in Christchurch, Crescent Road, 35 Willis Way in Poole.