When It Happens Panel Get involved: send your photos, videos, news & views by texting 'OXFORD NEWS' to 80360 or email
COMMENT: Make more use of portfolio
10:00am Thursday 15th March 2012 in Oxford
OXFORD City Council owns an astonishing amount of land and property — far more than most cities of comparable size, with some building dating back to the 16th century.
This should provide an extra stream of council revenue, useful in the battle to keep council taxes low and standards of services high.
So it comes as a shock to learn that important listed buildings, owned by the council, have been allowed to stand empty and deteriorating for more than a decade, costing tens of thousands of pounds of our money.
After all, it is our council, and it is the citizens of Oxford who pay the high salaries of its executives.
To be fair to the suthority, it seems to be mending its ways. Since 2008, according to one respected surveyor, the Corporate Asset Department has taken on new staff “who are like a new broom and very professional”.
The council, in facing up to the austere economic climate, finds itself in much the same position as a genteel old lady: house rich; cash poor. In the last year it has laid off 100 employees, bringing the head-count down to 1,200.
Optimising returns on property makes sense — but it must keep its roles as planner and landlord strictly separate.