Local government budgets have been lowered in recent years, but local leaders have also been given a ‘general power of competence’ allowing them to take any action that is within the law. When it comes to their funding and revenue, this means that innovative city leaders have been able to seek ways to fund services, and plug gaps caused by lower budgets.
This report, supported by Turner & Townsend and Bevan Brittan, outlines how cities have made use of their assets – from office buildings and land, to former coal mines and disused fibre optic ducting networks – to increase revenue and support local economic growth, using these new powers. In particular, it sets out the ways in which cities have worked with other public, and private, sector partners in order to achieve the most from these assets.
To better use public assets, and do so through collaboration with local partners, based on in-depth interviews, the report outlines the five key ways to ensure success and overcome common challenges. These are:
1. Know your assets and share that knowledge – If cities or potential partners are not aware of the assets in a city and the opportunities they present, then they cannot be taken.
2. Have a clear sense of how assets can help deliver your economic vision – Providing clarity on where land for both housing and employment and transport infrastructure will be needed to ensure local growth over the next 20 years allows partners from public and private sectors to see how their assets can support this.
3. Have a commercial mindset when thinking about the value and potential of public assets – Cities must have a clear focus on the gap in the market that they are looking to use their assets to fill, who their competitors will be and the potential for and scale of risk.
4. Provide adequate resources and tools to ensure success of asset-backed collaborations – Without staff and funding dedicated to a new project or partnership, those within partner organisations will often – naturally – concentrate on their own work and progress will falter.
5. Ensure strong institutional partnerships for asset-backed partnerships – Separate organisations with different goals, cultures, incentives, and timelines require clear structures on how assets will be used from the outset. Shared civic goals and good personal relationships strengthen these partnerships but also allow flexibility in the use of assets in response to changing circumstances.
The report also offers best practice examples of how UK cities are making the most of their assets against each of these five guiding points. For any city hoping to make the most of its land and property assets, ensuring each of the five criteria above has been met, will likely lead to much better asset management, more effective revenue raising, and an opportunity to better fund services and economic development opportunities.