Hammersmith and Fulham Council has become the first Council (unless you know different?) to publish its register of property assets. Hundreds of buildings – cafes, restaurants, shops, sports centres, a snooker club, a laundry, the Lyric Theatre, Riverside Studios….
We are planning sell some buildings – including Fulham Town Hall. It's a splendid building but having two Town Halls does seem a bit extravagant. There is also Pallingswick House, which is in my ward and I have written about on this site before.
At the moment we are looking at selling nine building altogether which could reduce the debt mountain we inherited from Labour by £20 million. When we took over from Labour in 2006 the Council debt was £169 million. We have now got it down to £133 million. But we need to clear it. At the moment our bill for debt interest is £5 million a year. The figure we are looking for is nil.
Asset management is crucial. So the argument for asset transparency is much the same as for spending transparency. By publishing our assets register we make ourselves more accountable. Why aren't you selling building x, it's empty anyway? Instead of selling building y why don't you relocate the group from building z in there, who would find it more suitable, and sell building z, for which you would get more money? You've missed off building v and building w from the register? Didn't you even know you owned them? Etc, etc. It is helpful for us to be challenged on these points.