Asset Management “Best Use” of Government not Development Management

Successful businesses like Amazon exploit opportunity, which means they deliver outputs that are valued. The role of government is to provide the framework for that success.   To enable that with land use and property, government needs to provide a framework that is fit for purpose. This stewardship needs to reflect the long term impact, funding requirement and interrelationship of the many aspects of the built environment. Topically, particularly true if it is also to capture the appropriate tax rate.

What is best use and as ‘The Holy Grail’ how do we know when we have it ?

The rating debate highlights how successive governments have focused on new development as a means of generating instant economic activity from property and capital receipts, despite this being only say 2% of assets. What about the use and efficiency of the remaining 98%?

The problem is the lack of asset management of the public estate, comprising both buildings and infrastructure. It is infrastructure, both physical and environmental, that is the framework for economic and societal success, as a whole and we are not very good at getting it paid for.

Politicians must surely bid for the right to use our long term assets and long term income within their period of office. No more consuming today our children’s future.  What value an independent UK asset bank to husband our land and infrastructure? The traditional landed estates have a lot to commend them.

Best use

Mark Prisk stated an aim of government is for rates to be an incentive “for the best use of land and buildings.” Securing the best use requires the market to be allowed to function. It therefore requires the integration of publicly controlled and privately owned land and buildings into town and region wide infrastructure planning if the market is to function across all assets, not just those outside the public sector.

Infrastructure planning and public assets are about social inclusion as well as about leveraging development. So, plenty of scope to focus minds.

Devolving long term land and development decisions to local authority city regions and functional LEP areas is essential. Their geographic remit must equate to the development and infrastructure impacts they are being asked to manage.  To deliver this, particularly in a world of shifting current expenditure demands and short cycles of political life, there needs to be a ring fenced management body whose remit is the long term requirements of infrastructure and land use.

What is needed are statutorily defined asset management vehicles with specified service levels and resource responsible for delivering key asset management services within effectively further refined LEP areas. They would need to be funded independently through rating income and sit outside local authorities but deliver key management services to them.

Jonathan Naughton

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