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'Cover-up' claim over council asset list denied
3:30pm Thursday 8th March 2012 in News
LABOUR has denied there is a cover-up concerning the potential sale of some of its properties.
An asset management strategy report presented to the cabinet on February 22 said the authority could make up to £5.8million by selling off 17 assets.
The report did not detail what the assets were, and at the meeting, where the strategy was approved, the Tories accused Labour of a cover-up, when told there was no detailed list of assets for sale.
Group leader Phil Anderson said: “The strategy that Labour approved identifies an exact number of buildings, it gives a precise value range, and it gives dates over the next five years when the disposals will happen.
“Yet they still have the nerve to claim that no detailed list exists.
“We know full well that it exists, because I was briefly shown an early draft of it at meeting held as far back as June 16 last year.”
Leader of the council John Kent has hit back at the claims, and said the council was criticised by external auditors for not having a proper asset management strategy, which is why one has been drafted.
He revealed a list of council-owned properties has been split into three groups, properties that are surplus to requirements, and could be sold, properties which are not being used as efficiently as possible, and properties which are well used by the community.
Cllr Kent said the council is not considering selling properties from the second and third group.
He said: “The report looked at how we will manage our assets more efficiently and cost effectively.
“Whilst the report refers to 17 properties, they are not all for immediate disposal – these particular properties are merely indicative of the types of properties that the council own and helped shape the financial modelling presented in the report.
“Of the 17, there are five properties that we believe could be disposed of immediately, including two former school sites, an office, a depot and some vacant land.
“The remaining properties are part of the council’s longer term considerations and include office space, library buildings and a depot.
“For absolute clarity we are not even considering disposing of any of the properties in the groups two and three. If that situation were to change, in years to come, there would have to be fullest consultation possible with users and residents and even then we would only proceed if alternative provision was put in place before the disposal.”
The list: Group one- properties that could be sold: 169 Usk Road (Depot) - Aveley Graham James (former) Infant School- Corringham Jack Lobley (Former) Primary School- Tilbury Grays Magistrates Court- Grays 64-82 Argent Street - Grays Group two - properties not being used as efficiently as possible: Dilkes Park depot- South Ockendon Station House – offices Thurrock Carers Centre, Cromwell Road Grays Group three- properties well used by the community: Aveley library Corringham library Stanford le Hope library Stanford le Hope area office Chadwell St Mary area office Chadwell St Mary library Riverside – Youth Centre/Connexions- Chadwell St mary East Tilbury library Blackshots library