Cabinet triggers a ten-year plan for the future of council properties

The principles underpinning a ten-year plan to manage and rationalise the wide variety of buildings owned or managed, controlled and operated by Oxfordshire County Council was approved by the authority’s cabinet on Tuesday, 15 November.

Oxfordshire County Council owns 905 sites around the county, including 13 offices. As part of the proposed review, officers would be asked to develop plans to rationalise this “operational estate” of offices, including options and business cases for Oxford city centre office accommodation. They will be asked to formulate these plans over the next six months.

 The long-term vision for the property strategy that cabinet members agreed is: “To create an efficient, innovative, and accessible property estate, which delivers our climate action objectives and generates social value for our residents, workforce and customers of the property service. We will use our estate where possible and appropriate; to support regeneration and economic value”.

Councillor Calum Miller, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Finance, said: “Our 905 properties are assets for the benefit of all residents in Oxfordshire. We want to increase the social, financial and environmental benefits they provide to communities in Oxfordshire. This strategy sets out our approach.

“We are committed to tackling climate change and achieving net zero carbon in the Council’s operations by 2030. That commitment is at the heart of our strategy. By responding to changes in residents’ needs and in the ways our staff work, we can improve the services we offer while reducing carbon emissions – and costs.

“We also want to make it easier for residents to access support and council services through community hubs in key areas. Where we can work with voluntary and community organisations to support them in their work for residents, we will continue to do that. And where we have properties that we no longer require, we will be quicker to make decisions about their use or disposal.

 “Managing property is a long-term business. We are setting out our strategy today but it needs to be something that belongs to the whole council, not just our current administration. I am grateful for the support of members from all parties for this new strategy and glad we will hear their ideas through a cabinet advisory group.

“This is very much the start of the process. No decisions have been made regarding any specific properties.”

 The report to the cabinet recommended that officers establish a cross-party reference group to oversee the development of options and business cases and report back regularly on progress.

Other recommendations included the following:

  • Developing a costed business case for implementation.
  • Coming up with a plan to give up leased properties, realising savings through rationalisation.
  • Making plans to either repurpose or dispose of currently empty and under-used properties,
  • Developing options and feasibility for implementing community hubs to provide better access to services across the county focused on the main population centres bringing services for children and families, adult social care and other services in single locations.
  • Supporting the delivery of the council’s decarbonisation programme.