|The Bowls Pavilion, KIng Edward VII Park|
The Council claims that the scheme has been unsuccessful in meeting its objectives and although it mentions some of its own policy and practices as getting in the way of Third Sector Organisations (TSOs) making bids for Council property it claims it is the quality of the property that is the main problem:
The most important factor, however, is the lack of high quality assets available for CAT in Brent. The Strategic Property Plan currently lists just three properties available: Chalkhill Police Office, Welford Centre (Units 1-3) and the Millennium Day Centre. Moreover, those that are made available are of low quality, meaning that local TSOs - which are best-placed to realise the community benefits of CAT - are left with poorer accommodation, or else are less likely to apply because they are unable to commit the investment required to bring assets up to standard.These are the CATs considered so far.
The Officers' Report states:
Four properties have been approved by Cabinet for marketing as CATs: Gladstone Park Pavilion (Kilburn Cosmos clubhouse); Tenterden Pavilion; Northwick Park Pavilion and Butler’s Green toilets. However, authority to market Northwick Park Pavilion was subsequently withdrawn by Cabinet in January 2017 owing to its inclusion in the One Public Estate programme. A fifth property, Barham Park Card Room, was approved for marketing under the council’s CAT policy by the Barham Park Trust Committee in July 2015.
Four properties have been identified as unsuitable for CAT: Kingsbury Resource Centre, Wembley Youth and Community Centre, Church Lane Recreation Ground and King Edward VII Park buildings. This has been on the basis they had already been marketed through regular property channels at the time of the CAT submission. The Old Refectory in Central Middlesex Hospital property is ineligible as it is not council-owned.
In addition to this, one property - Welsh Harp Environment Education Centre - was identified for CAT as part of a council initiated service review and leased to Thames 21 in January 2016
The change of policy means in effect that earlier commitment to considering the social benefit of bids as well as the commercial return on property has been ditched. The financial return, the highest bid, will now be the main factor.
It is worth readers looking at what the report says about the processes involved in voluntary organisations seeking a community asset transfer from the Council to the organisation and considering whether the Council could have taken action to make things less difficult. (Highlighting mine)
From the consultation with Brent TSOs, partners and officers in March 2016, the evidence indicates the CAT policy does not meet the intended goals of enabling better management of assets, enabling more effective delivery of Borough Plan outcomes by TSOs, and empowering local communities. Some of the issues identified concern the supporting processes and tools, which can make applying for CATs more difficult for TSOs. These include the accessibility of information on assets eligible for CAT, and communication between TSOs and the council in relation to CATs. These could be resolved with relatively straightforward operational changes.
However, other factors also discourage some TSOs from CATs. These include choices that the council has made about policy and its underpinning principles, such as criteria for applicants, open marketing of CAT opportunities, and the length of leases offered.
The report concludes:They also include lack of capacity in smaller TSOs, limiting their ability to successfully engage in a CAT. Overall, contrary to empowering local organisations, these factors have served to exclude them and discourage them from taking up potential opportunities to engage with the council. The original ethos that a straightforward Expression of Interest is sufficient to kick start the CAT process has been lost, with applicants expend considerable time and resources in developing a full property bid from the outset.
The report finds that the CAT policy is not meeting its objectives, and recommends that the council discontinues the existing CAT process in favour of marketing all council assets in the usual way