Executive Member Portfolio Update (Agenda Item 6)
Councillor Mark Kiddle-Morris, Executive Member for Assets and Strategic Development, has been invited to attend the meeting to update Members on key ongoing issues and policies within his portfolio and to answer any questions.
Councillor Kiddle-Morris, Executive Member for Assets and Strategic Development had been invited to update the Commission on his Portfolio. He advised Members that some projects took a long time to come to fruition and therefore there had not been many changes since his last update.
The Team were working very hard. CIPFA had been asked to audit the way it carried out its work and had placed them in the top quartile in the country for providing value for money. There were some disappointments. The office holdings were not performing well with Dereham Business Centre only 60% let and Thetford between 75 and 85% let. However, commercial property was 93% let. The gross revenue income was £2.67million which equated to the amount received from Council Tax income. That amount included £44,000 from sales and rentals of small pieces of land and £750,000 capital income from the sale of land at Castle Acre Road, with more money due in November and next year.
There had been capital expenditure of £1.2million on an investment property in Kings Lynn which would bring a 12% return. Other outgoings included the costs of maintaining the car parks and other land assets and open spaces, and street lighting in the market towns and Bawdeswell.
This was one of the areas where projects took a long time. The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) had given the Council some freedom to put a local interpretation into the new Local Plan. Evidence gathering was being undertaken as the Local Plan was evidence based. The current timetable was for a new Local Plan to be in place in 2016. However, the Council’s current Local Development Framework (LDF) was largely compliant with the NPPF.
Other work included the CIL (Community Infrastructure Levy) – to be discussed later on the Agenda, and Neighbourhood Plans. Attleborough were working on the submission of their plan area and the Council had a duty to co-operate with them on that.
The RevActive programme, which offered free, impartial support to small and medium size enterprises to reduce their energy bills and cut their carbon emissions, was coming to an end. It had helped over 338 SMEs to save £3.8million annually and to secure jobs.
It would be replaced by Grants for Growth working in partnership with other LEPs (Local Enterprise Partnerships) spread over a larger area.
Councillor Matthews asked why RevActive was ending and was advised that the European funding for the project had been for four years and that time was running out.
Councillor Kybird asked whether the private landlords along the A11 corridor were being engaged with and it was confirmed that they were.
The Vice-Chairman asked what the process was for informing Councillors about decisions such as the purchase of the property in Kings Lynn. He had been informed about it by the local press. They had asked him to comment and although he had been able to say he supported the proposal in principle he had not been able to comment further as he had known nothing about it. He felt it would be helpful for all Councillors to be given a clear understanding of the Council’s approach to enable them to deal with the many questions they got from the press and public.
The Executive Member explained that it was very difficult to talk about such matters due to confidentiality issues. There was a project in the pipeline which would help to make the property portfolio more viable and all Members had been invited to a workshop on 31 July which would explain its aims. He urged Members to attend.
Councillor Bambridge thought it was a shame the press were not present to hear the cross party support for the purchase of the Kings Lynn property which would provide such an excellent return on the Council’s money.
Councillor Rogers raised a question about investment in each of the five market towns and the Chairman suggested that all such questions could be dealt with when the subject, which was on the work programme, was discussed at a future meeting.
Councillor Richmond asked about the amount of land the Council owned and the Chairman felt that was something that should be included in the investment topic.
The Chairman asked what was being done to try and improve the office lettings and the Executive Member confirmed that they were being marketed aggressively and all options were being explored.
The Chairman thanked the Executive Member for his update.