Property deal gets go ahead

Deal: Coun Geoff Driver
Deal: Coun Geoff Driver
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A multi-million pound deal with two private firms to take control of Lancashire County Council’s property portfolio has been rubber-stamped.

Bamber Bridge-based Eric Wright Group and Carillion will take on 550 buildings across the county – worth around £280m.

The deal was agreed at a meeting of the authority’s cabinet yesterday.

It will include residential, retail and health buildings no longer needed by the council and could include turning them into offices, homes, hotels or leisure facilities, or selling them off.

Concerns were raised during the meeting about how any profits from the scheme would be shared between the private sector firms and the council.

Coun Geoff Driver, leader of Lancashire County Council, said the move would not incur any costs by the council, and any potential costs or profits will be looked at on a case by case basis.

He said: “As with a all other business like this with the council, everything would be agreed by the cabinet.

“This is really the county council acting in a different way for the benefit of the people of Lancashire. It is a really good proposal.

“This goes with the council’s mantra of not being a business, but being business like.”

He said any cash from the partnership would not necessarily be ploughed back into regeneration, but would go into the council’s overall budget, to be spent where it is needed.

He said: “We don’t want to get into earmarking any income for different things. We have to say what our priorities are.”

Council bosses also agreed to press ahead with measures which would save £10.8m from their overall budget.

Coun Driver said it showed the authority had their ‘finger on the pulse’ in terms of the financial position they were in.

He said: “This shows we have got our fingers on the pulse with regard to what is going on. These savings show what a good job the council are doing.”

Increased demand for services such as social care, and increases in inflation, has created a £9.8m gap in the authority’s three-year budget plan – which looks to save £205m by 2014.

To address this, spending on training will be reduced by £350,000, renegotiating HR 
operations will save £500,000, and ‘staffing efficiencies’ which includes removing vacant posts – will save £762,000.

As part of the savings, more than £1m has been identified as ‘head-room’ ahead of the authority’s imminent funding settlement from central Government.