Minister hears how public services are making assets count

COMMUNITIES Minister, Baroness Hanham, has seen how Cambridgeshire is leading the way on a national pathfinder project to join up public sector assets to save millions of pounds and improve access to public services.

The partnership – Making Assets Count – is finding ways for different public sector bodies to come together to take a shared view about land and buildings. This will deliver real savings and better, more joined-up services which will benefit both the tax payer and the local community.

Collectively the local public sector in Cambridgeshire controls assets with a book value of over £1billion.

The event on Wednesday reported on savings now being made across Cambridgeshire, and also focused on the opportunity for major improvements in market towns such as March, St Ives, St Neots and in the city of Ely.

Cambridgeshire was one of the first areas in the country to put all of its local public sector assets, land and buildings, onto an electronic map, and to collect a common data set about those assets.

Using that information, the MAC team has been working with government bodies to look at options to share facilities and improve services. This includes working constructively with organisations such as JobCentre Plus, the Highways Agency, and the Ministry of Justice to consider their local assets and how co-locating services could save money and benefit local communities.

Baroness Hanham attended a major MCA event today, held at the SmartLIFE centre in Cambridge, which proposed projects for further alignment of services and buildings in Cambridgeshire. These include longer term proposals, such as for multi-use hubs as centres of services for communities, and how public assets can be used to maximise opportunities for town centre redevelopment in areas such as Wisbech – providing retail, housing and community benefits.

As well as taking on a strategic oversight of much of the public sector estate in Cambridgeshire through a single Asset Management Plan, and developing projects to reduce costs and improve services, the partnership aims to focus in future on issues such as regeneration, new development and reducing the public sector’s impact on the environment.

It is expected that not only will these proposals bring millions of pounds to benefit taxpayers, but that services will become more joined up and efficient, benefiting service users.

Cambridgeshire County Councillor Steve Count, Cabinet Member for Resources and Performance, said: “The continuing interest in Making Assets Count from central Government clearly shows that Cambridgeshire is leading the way in looking at ways of sharing facilities and services with other public organisations, and we hope that Baroness Hanham can help in increasing the level of interest from Government bodies in our various proposals. The benefits from the Making Assets Count projects are already being seen throughout the county. By sharing facilities, services can become easier to access by our communities. Also, the millions of pounds of both savings and income produced by the selling or sharing of assets will prove to be invaluable, particularly during these times of financial difficulty. We very much hope that these proposals will continue to be successful in future in benefiting the communities and helping public organisations to work most effectively.”