10 January 2002

Q5 Alison Halford:

Will the Minister make a statement on the Osborn report and its implications for Wales? (OAQ14797)


Edwina Hart:

 I published the executive summary of the Osborn report on 26 November 2001. It identifies that all parts of the public sector have begun preparing their asset management plans. Many will be substantially completed by April 2002, but more work will certainly be needed in health and local government. That work is now underway and in my budget statement last November I announced an additional £1 million for local authorities in 2002-03 to help with this work.

Alison Halford: Flintshire County Council has been subject to several critical reports from various authorities. Such reports embraced internal audit, leisure and environment. The latest is on housing maintenance, which has received a worrying zero rating. The council has always maintained that these reports are inaccurate and unfair. Do you believe that the Osborn report will assist in resolving such differences of opinion, thus allowing the public to judge fairly the performance of its local authority?
Edwina Hart: I have had positive discussions with Flintshire County Council and its leader on all aspects about how the authority is managed and the implications of these reports. I am pleased with developments in Flintshire and the strong line its leader has taken on staffing and the needs of the authority. I hope that the asset management plans outlined in Osborn will assist not only Flintshire but also other local authorities.

Janet Davies:

 I declare an interest as Chair of the Audit Committee in the matter of property asset management planning. The issue of more money for health has been raised. A quarter of the NHS properties that have been surveyed are underused or lying empty, and have running costs of £25 million annually, apart from the capital that is tied up. Will you ask the Minister for Health and Social Services to prioritise this issue?
Edwina Hart: Jane Hutt and I have already had a series of meetings concerning the NHS property asset management in its estate and the general asset management issues. We will continue to develop policy in this area. We have a common agenda and we do not want to see any waste. We want to allocate all available moneys to front-line services.

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