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Lib Dems call for “secret” list of council owned properties and land in Surrey to be released

February 22, 2017 1:53 PM
Originally published by Surrey County Council Lib Dems

Country CottageLiberal Democrat Councillors on Surrey County Council have called for the release of a list of 103 properties and parcels of land owned by the County Council and described as "assets" but details of which the council is refusing to share with councillors and residents. The 103 assets are "not in operational use" and were first referred to in council papers in December 2016 and despite repeated assurances from the county council that the information would be provided, the list has still not been shared with councillors.

Cllr Hazel Watson, Leader of the Liberal Democrats on Surrey County Council, then tabled a question at a meeting of the Cabinet on 31st January 2017 requesting more information but a list of the 103 assets was still not provided. Furthermore, the minutes of the meeting state that "to provide a full list was not an efficient use of time".

Cllr Watson said:

"I am asking the county council to provide a full list of these 103 properties and parcels of land, their location, the reasons why and the length of time they have not been in operational use. Councillors and residents have a right to know whether the council is managing its properties and land effectively at a time when resources are tight.

"Some of these properties and land may have been unused for a long time, which is a waste of council resources in maintaining and keeping secure property and land which could be used by council services, sold or rented out to bring in much needed funding for the council. This extra funding could help to alleviate the council's financial difficulties and help to protect services for Surrey residents from being discontinued or cut, but without the facts, we do not know.

"The refusal of the Conservative-administration to release this information is entirely in keeping with their secretive approach to information which should be in the public domain. Just two weeks ago, councillors were asked to vote on a budget on 7th February containing £123m of unspecified cuts but with no details or figures provided at all.

"I have now submitted a Freedom of Information request to the county council, asking for a detailed list of the 103 assets with the reasons why and the length of time they have not been in operational use. At a time when the county council is investing £136m in commercial properties outside of Surrey, residents have the right to know how the county council is managing the properties and land it owns in Surrey.

"The culture of secrecy within this Conservative-administration has to end now. It should not be necessary for a Councillor to be forced to make a Freedom of Information Act request in order to obtain basic facts about land and properties owned by the council. It begs the question: what does the Conservative administration at County Hall have to hide?"

Notes:

The first reference to the list of 103 assets can be found here (page 28):

https://mycouncil.surreycc.gov.uk/documents/s34446/COB%20Property%20Paper%20141216.pdf

A link to Cllr Watson's question to Cabinet and the minutes can be found here:

https://mycouncil.surreycc.gov.uk/documents/g5103/Public%20minutes%20Tuesday%2031-Jan-2017%2014.00%20Cabinet.pdf?T=11

Cllr Watson's FOI request can be found here:

The County Council have confirmed, in their response to my Cabinet question of 31st January 2017 (https://mycouncil.surreycc.gov.uk/documents/g5103/Decisions%20Tuesday%2031-Jan-2017%2014.00%20Cabinet.pdf?T=2 - page 10), that it holds 103 assets not in operational use.

Under the Freedom of Information Act, I would like to request:

- A full description of each of the 103 assets

- The location of each asset

- The reason for the asset not being in operational use

- The length of time each asset has not been in operational use

- The value of each asset

- What the future intention is for each asset.