Cabinet Member: Councillor Dafydd Meurig
To receive the Senior Property Managers report
A report was presented by the Senior Property Manager detailing the principles of managing the Council's smallholdings estate. It was noted that, in 2008, a comprehensive review had been held to look at the purpose of the estate, its financial performance and the management arrangements. A decade had passed since the review, therefore it was considered timely to revisit the field and confirm the logic behind the importance of continuing to provide the County's smallholdings.
It was reported that an officer within the Estates Unit had been released to assist with the work of managing the Council's smallholdings which had allowed the unit to give more attention to matters relating to increasing rent income and dealing with a number of contractual matters which were awaiting attention. It was added that this resource was only a temporary arrangement and had been at the expense of performance in the Estates Unit's other work fields.
Members were reminded that the Cabinet Member for the Environment had responsibility for making operational decisions on managing smallholdings with advisory panels set up to assist with matters such as empty holdings or bringing tenancies to an end. It was highlighted that there was a panel for Meirionnydd and a Panel for Dwyfor.
It was noted that the estate's financial position had changed greatly over the last decade and the estate was now self-sufficient and generated an income to the Council above running costs. It was added that should there be a wish to reinvest in the estate this would lead to the need to find an equivalent saving in another field. Should the income increase in future (through rent reviews or by transferring to new terms under modern arrangements) allocating the additional amount to be reinvested in the estate could be considered.
During the ensuing discussion the following points were highlighted by individual Members:
· That the long-awaited report / update was to be welcomed
· That smallholdings contributed to keeping young people in our rural communities giving them an opportunity to work within farming
· There was a suggestion to retain the staff resource and keep the profit in order for expenditure to be reinvested on improvements. Some of the houses were in a very poor condition.
· Consider targeting some of the houses that needed a lot of work doing to them
· A suggestion was made to establish a cross-County panel to ensure farming expertise
· If there was a request for the tenant to invest in the building, more certainty than 5 years must be given to the tenant
· A suggestion was made to let the land
· There was a need to agree on the terms of reference and hold discussions to prioritise expenditure
· There was a suggestion to establish an arm's-length company to attract capital / grant funding as a way forward to improve and modernise standards. Managing smallholdings was not a statutory requirement, therefore, ensuring that the estate was self-sufficient was essential.
· With setting a definite retirement age of 65, this clause must be reviewed in order to ensure that the tenant would be given an opportunity to do a business plan and act in line with legal requirements.
In response to a question regarding the stringent guidelines for the statutory requirements of housing standards, it was noted that there was a statutory responsibility on the property department to address these requirements. It was reiterated that the Council had one maintenance source and it was difficult to prioritise the need. It was noted that the Unit was meeting the 'fit and suitable' element but did not meet the resource to raise standards.
In response to a question regarding ensuring succession / inheritance, it was highlighted that a succession support policy was under consideration
A proposal was made and seconded to establish one cross-County panel with a clear constitution and broader terms of reference with the intention, in the longer term, of considering a viable arm's-length company. The need to retain the temporary staff resource was reiterated and that any profit, beyond what had been allocated, was reinvested in the estate.
RESOLVED TO ACCEPT THE REPORT
· To establish one cross-County panel with a clear constitution and broader terms of reference
· To consider establishing an arm's length company in the longer term
· To retain the temporary staff resource
· Any profit, beyond the figure that was allocated, is reinvested in the estate.