A meeting of Cheshire East Council’s cabinet has approved the delivery of a strategic asset management and delivery plan to raise £25m from asset sales in the next year.
The document also outlines a rationalisation programme to save a further £1m in business rates.
The council said that the aim of the plan is to make big savings from empty buildings and unneeded sites by selling off surplus assets to reinvest in frontline services.
Part of the plan calls for the creation of a Corporate Property Board to test whether assets should be retained or sold off as surplus to requirements, and a Public Sector Property Board to liaise with other services.
The Council owns more than 2,350 land and property assets worth a total of more than £485m, which cost £17m each year to manage. It also has an annual capital building programme worth between £15m and £20m.
According to a report from Caroline Simpson, the Council’s executive director of economic growth and prosperity, the Council will continue to use the Engine of the North joint venture development vehicle to dispose of sites, but would review its current structure to give it capacity “to drive forward and deliver the challenging agenda of asset rationalisation and asset release”.
Cheshire East confirmed last week that Darren Lawless, managing director of Engine of the North, had resigned to pursue other opportunities.
Cllr Michael Jones, leader of Cheshire East, said: “Property is the Council’s second largest cost after the staff, so future efficiency savings must use assets as a driver for change.
“We need to identify where services are best delivered, challenging the need for assets and ‘working without walls’ – where officers use mobile technology and do not have their ‘own’ desk in a council building. It’s about working smarter to deliver for our residents.”
The strategy acknowledges that many of the diverse land and property assets held by the Council, such as offices, leisure centres, libraries, residential accommodation, and cultural venues are an important part of the borough’s economic and social fabric.