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Asset management planning has been around now in local government for around 15 years. Long enough, one might have thought, for authorities to have decided what it is that they want from their asset management planning – and how this should be documented in a way that reflects the local needs and priorities of that authority.
For some, perhaps, the author takes pride in having the opportunity to set out everything the property service does for the authority. Maybe some people feel that the bigger their document is it somehow reflects the importance of the property service or themselves personally and boosts their standing within the authority.
Or could it be that it is a deliberate ploy to encourage people NOT to read it?
Whatever the reasons are, next time you sit down to write your asset management plan you should reflect first of all on what the purpose of the document is:
The first thing to say is that there is certainly no right or wrong way to structure or prepare an asset management plan or other related documents. Nobody is telling you how you should do it. You have to decide it for yourself. They are your documents and you have to own them and put in place what suits your local requirements.
But in our recent review of asset management planning documents and in our work with local authorities around the UK we can see a pattern to where it starts to go wrong – and it often centres on confusion on what is their policy, what is their strategy and what is their action plan. Muddling these things can confuse the reader as to exactly what is going to be delivered and why. So our advice to clients who seek our help on such matters is to think carefully about these three things well before you start drafting anything.
We are starting to see some authorities do this. They have realised the need to be clear on the difference between these three areas. Whether this separation is divided between three separate documents or not is of course a matter for local decision. Some have done this and some have not. But if you are going to opt for the three-document approach then the following might help to provide you with a summary of what we consider each document might look like.
Property Asset Management Action Plan should provide clear and measurable actions that will be implemented over the short term, say three to five years, as part of delivering the Property Asset Management Strategy. The document should:
If you like the idea of developing a policy and a strategy then there are two ways of doing this. The first is to draft what you believe elected members and senior officers think they will want and circulate it for input. The second is to involve them in the development process itself, perhaps through a facilitated workshop session. We would generally favour the latter approach so that everyone takes ownership of the outcome. After all, the policy and strategy should have longevity and will provide the basis for the deliverables under the action plan and you need everybody on board with that.
Whatever document structure or format you decide upon we would advise that you keep in mind the need to reflect the following key points: