A UNIQUE partnership which could save taxpayers in Worcestershire £118 million looks set to go ahead.
Worcester City Council is working alongside Worcestershire County Council, West Mercia Police, Hereford and Worcester Fire Service, the NHS and Redditch Borough Council to develop a joint property services scheme.
The programme – known as the Joint Property Vehicle – will see the six authorities work together to form a privately-owned company managing property services across the region.
Head of estates with Warwickshire and West Mercia Police Jim Stobie told members of the city council’s Labour-run cabinet at meeting on Tuesday, April 14 the scheme had been trialled in Bromsgrove over the past three to five years, which had allowed them to identify any potential pitfalls in the programme.
“What we are looking to do is to deliver that sort of approach across the whole area,” he said.
He added the programme was the first of its kind across the country and had been attracting some serious interest from central government.
“If we get this moving with a target a live date of April next year it could become a national model,” he said.
Although some concerns had previously been expressed that the programme would mean valuable council-owned assets such as the Guildhall would fall into private hands, Mr Stobie was keen to point out there was no scope for this to happen.
All six authorities involved will retain ownership of their assets and the new company will be jointly owned by the organisations, with each having an equal stake in it.
About £56 million of taxpayers' cash is currently tied up in property across the county every year and Cllr Richard Boorn said it was important the city council explored all possible ways of making savings.
“Let’s be under no illusion that funding from central government is not going to increase,” he said.
“The austerity measures are not going to decrease.
“A more rational approach to how we operate has to be considered.
“It’s very important we make the best of the assets we have and we need to secure these assets
“We already have issues with property were not getting the best out of.”
Cllr Lynn Denham described the project as “exciting”.
“It will need careful work going forward but the project is a really interesting one,” she said.
A full business case for the project is now being developed and is expected to be completed late this year or early 2015.