Cllr Randal Brew, Cabinet Member for Finance at Birmingham City Council, offers his thoughts on yesterday’s CP Bigwood auction, which saw council properties worth more than £1.5million go under the hammer…
Ensuring we get the best from our property portfolio has been one of my key aims since taking on the role of Cabinet Member for Finance in May 2010.
We have more than 4,000 property assets, not including our social housing stock, so it is absolutely crucial that we keep on top of issues as they arise – namely the need for maintenance, and if the buildings and facilities actually offer us value for money.
Given the challenging financial times we face, it is only right we do everything we can to protect the taxpayer’s interests.
It is this constant process of review that leads to us having properties in auction, as was the case this week.
We had a mixture of sites up for grabs. There were two houses that had been bought by the council’s empty property team, which scours the city to find privately-owned homes that have been abandoned or left unused – so they can be put to use by those in need of housing.
There were also two old, outdated, neighbourhood offices, now surplus to requirements thanks to the development of state-of-the-art Customer Service Centres and the increased availability of services via the council website.
We even had a disused toilet block on sale. It has been unused for several years and has many possible uses, subject to the correct planning permissions being obtained.
The auction, staged at Villa Park, was packed with people looking to pick up properties at the right price, and our suite of ten properties certainly generated a great deal of interest.
Based on guide price alone, we stood to make £1.325million. Once the hammer had fallen on the tenth and final lot, we had generated £1.541million from nine of the properties.
The star of the show was The Old Bank on Villa Road – bidding was fierce, going from a guide price of £150,000 to a final sale of £410,000.
Nails were also bitten by bidders going for the former neighbourhood office at Regent Park Road in Small Heath. Starting off slowly, the auctioneer struggled to keep up as the price shot up to an eventual sale at £351,000.
And what of the toilet in Hockley? More than a penny was spent – the block went for £50,000, hopefully leaving the winning bidder flushed with success!
Of the ten lots up for sale, the Sycamore Centre, most recently used as offices, was the one that failed to meet its reserve price.
As part of our responsible stewardship of the property portfolio, we will consider all options for this site, as we do when any of our lots fails to sell at auction.
But overall, I am particularly pleased nine buildings which the council no longer had any use for will now be actively operated for the benefit of citizens, businesses, visitors and other good causes.