by willforster on 18 December, 2017
Next week, the Conservative Cabinet of Surrey County Council is expected to agree to enter into a Joint Venture with an external company to redevelop the Council’s own land and buildings for housing for sale and rent.
Although I welcome action being taken at long last to utilise County Council owned buildings and land which have been left vacant for many years, the proposed Joint Venture between the Council and an external company fails to meet the needs of Surrey residents and is lacking in safeguards and is shrouded in secrecy. There is insufficient detail in the public domain to give an assurance that the Council’s property and finances will be adequately safeguarded and that the needs of Surrey residents will be met.
The report is lacking in basic information to enable scrutiny of the proposals such as a list of County Council land and buildings together with their value that will be included in the Joint Venture. It does not contain sufficient safeguards to adequately protect publicly owned property and finances by ensuring clear accountability as there are no elected councillors on the Joint Venture Board, the County Council does not have a majority on the Board and it is unclear what the methodology will be to decide which properties are surplus to the Council’s requirements. There is also no mention of any consultation with local County Councillors about properties within the areas that they represent or any kind of engagement with Surrey residents.
The report refers to Key Performance Indicators that will assess the performance of the Joint Venture but these are not stated. This is a major omission as Councillors and residents should know how the performance of the Joint Venture will be judged. “Termination options” are cited in the report but with no detail of what they are, what the financial implications would be or what penalty clauses could be invoked.
With such high property prices in Surrey, genuinely affordable housing is desperately needed so that social workers, teachers and care workers can afford to live here. However, the proposal does not contain a commitment to provide above the minimum amount of affordable housing, which is simply not good enough. That is why the Lib Dems want the Tory Cabinet to commit to a significantly higher proportion of housing that local people can genuinely afford.
The Joint Venture proposal is a missed opportunity to help meet Surrey’s need for genuinely affordable housing and to meet other needs such as for special needs places for children and housing in the community for adults with learning disabilities. This deal is for selling off Council land and buildings for the maximum amount of money and income without adequately considering the public benefit.Leave a comment