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Agenda item

Service Devolution & Asset Transfer Policy

Report of the Chief Executive



Councillor Phil Alford, Cabinet Member for Housing, Strategic Assets, and Asset Transfer, presented the report which detailed the refresh of the Service Devolution and Asset Transfer Policy. The policy enables the transfer of services and assets to town and parish councils, an activity which was paused during the Covid-19 pandemic as resources were reallocated.


Councillor Alford provided details of the review of the policy, noting legal requirements were often complex and by necessity involved lengthy negotiations from the bodies involved. The refreshed policy had clearer expectations including on exempt assets, and the Executive had accepted many of the recommendations of the scrutiny exercise which had examined the draft policy. In respect of resourcing the intention was to resource fully from April 2023 in the next budget cycle, and in the meantime draw down on transformation reserves.


The Leader welcomed the updated policy, stating examples at Salisbury and Devizes showed the positive difference that could be made despite the complexity of agreeing the transfers having been difficult.


Councillor Ruth Hopkinson, Chair of the rapid scrutiny exercise which had examined the policy, speaking on behalf of that group, responded to the update from the Cabinet Member and the report. She stated they did not consider the refreshed policy had addressed the concerns that had existed with the previous version, stating there was still a lack of resourcing, that the complexity of the process and cost to town and parishes had not been improved, that there was a lack of transparency and lack of clarity on which areas would be engaged with and how.


The Leader responded to the comments, stating he did not recognise that characterisation of the policy in any way, which he said was not grounded in fact. He stated significant resources had been committed and was being properly taken forward under budget processes once the new policy had been implemented and not before, that legal issues mandated some level of complexity, and that the council had been very open about the order in which areas would be engaged with to take forward and develop proposals. In respect of devolving services or assets on licence which Councillor Hopkinson raised, he stated where this had been done it was in order to avoid delays, but it was clear the intention was to make the transfers permanent in time.


Councillor Graham Wright, Chairman of Overview and Scrutiny Management, confirmed the policy would be discussed at his Committee on 28 September 2022.


Councillor Ian Thorn criticised the response to the scrutiny comments. Councillor Stewart Palmen raised points regarding discussions with Trowbridge Town Council.


The Cabinet Member made further comments on the resourcing of the programme, the transparency of listing assets, and the negotiation periods involved. He also pointed to recent transfers in Bradford-on-Avon.


At the conclusion of discussion, it was,




That Cabinet:


1)    Approve the revised Service Devolution and Asset Transfer Policy.


2)    Approve a drawdown of up to £200K from the transformation earmarked reserve to enable sufficient resource to deliver on requests


Reasons for Decision


The Home Office have awarded Wiltshire Council the sum of £351,756.00 for the financial year 2022/23 and indicative amounts of £360,000.00 for 23/24 and £630,000.00 for 24/25. Due to the total value of this three -year scheme, Cabinet are asked to support the proposals outlined in the paper for use against the Supplementary Substance Misuse Treatment and recovery grant (SSMTR grant).

Cabinet are also requested to delegate responsibility for future spend of the
additional monies awarded for years two and three of the grant as per the
proposals above.



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