Agenda item

Service Devolution and Asset Transfer Policy update (to follow)

To receive an update on implementation of the Policy consider by a Rapid Scrutiny Exercise and approved by Cabinet in September 2022.


The update was requested as one of the Rapid Scrutiny Group’s recommendations. The report of the Rapid Scrutiny Group can be viewed here: FINAL-REVIEW-Rapid-Scrutiny-Asset-Transfer-Policy (28Sep022), item 39. pdf icon PDF 137 KB


The Chairman noted that in Agenda Supplement 1, was an update on the implementation of the council’s Service Devolution and Asset Transfer Policy. This was adopted by Cabinet in September 2022, following input from a Rapid Scrutiny Exercise commissioned by the Committee. In endorsing the Rapid Scrutiny Group’s report, the Committee also scheduled an update on the policy to come back to the Committee.


Councillor Richard Clewer, Leader of the Council, introduced the report and made the following comments that a trial transfer was taking place with Westbury and that there has been engagement from Warminster. In addition, the Council was proceeding with one town at a time to make the process easier and would move onto other towns after Westbury.


The following comments were made by Andy Brown, Deputy Chief Executive and Section 151 Officer, who outlined that on 27 May 2022, a Town and Parish Council conference was held at County Hall, however this was based on the old policy. Since then, there had been follow up engagement with towns and parishes regarding the new policy. Though this had halted the interest of some of the councils, it would not mean in the future that they would not potentially return their interest. Further reference was given to the trial in Westbury, with it suggested that the transfer would provide savings to the Council which would then enable stabilisation for the programme.


The Chairman invited local member for Westbury East, Councillor Gordon King to speak on the subject, who noted that Westbury was happy to be the pilot, however there was a little apprehension. Councillor King stated that Westbury Town Council would meet with Wiltshire Council officers this week and that though the policy was different to the old one there was a firm belief that localism would outrun the disbenefits. Additionally, Councillor King stated that this was something that Westbury had wanted to do for a long time, with the view that there should be the ability to present and shape Westbury in the way that the residents would like to.


The following comments were received by Members of the Committee, but were not limited to, what the learning opportunities would be from the Westbury Pilot. To which it was clarified that learning had already been made regarding to the Council’s asset list and that where town councils might be interested in things beyond that list, reasons had been given for why certain assets and services had been excluded. Additionally, that parameters around policy regarding parcels of land would have to be considered.


An update was provided that Calne Town Council had now employed a new Staff Director of Services, which would hopefully lead to a renegotiation of terms as the town council had been interested in going forward with a transfer.


Further detail was provided from Councillor King regarding the Westbury pilot, that the town council had consulted with other town and city councils to gain an insight of their experiences and that though there had been many warnings, Westbury Town Council were looking forward to it.


A query was raised in relation to the possibility of residents purchasing parcels of land, to which it was clarified by the Section 151 Officer that though this would be possible, assessments would be needed to determine whether the land was a ransom strip as well as obtaining a valuation and that the purchaser would have to pay for legal fees if the conditions were right. Councillor Clewer also added that if such parcels of land were large enough to build a house on, then the Council would first consider building a Council house on it.


At the conclusion of discussion, it was,




The Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee agreed:


To note the update on the implementation of the council’s Service Devolution and Asset Transfer Policy.

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