The price of clearing Fife Council’s current property maintenance backlog is “north of £300 million,” councillors were told. 

Alan Paul, head of property services, presented the local authority's asset management strategy for 2023-28, which includes closing New City House in Dunfermline.

He said in terms of the cost of the maintenance backlog, they're looking at a "telephone number".

At the environment, transportation and climate change scrutiny committee, Labour councillor Graeme Downie, who represents the West Fife and coastal villages, raised concerns about the repair maintenance backlog for some buildings. 

“In terms of upgrading our existing buildings, there are a few issues in a couple of community centres in West Fife villages,” he said. 

According to Cllr Downie, there are several community groups looking to take on leases for council assets, but repairs and maintenance of "old boiler equipment" are making them “cautious of taking on the responsibility” for them.

Mr Paul sympathised, but said building maintenance and repair work is a huge challenge for the council. 

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“One of the core challenges we have with our properties is the condition of our estate generally,” he said.  

“If I totalled up the level of current backlog maintenance, I would end up with a telephone number in terms of the size. It is sitting north of £300 million.  

“If I were in their shoes, I too would look to the council to help fix these problems.

"Candidly, the challenge is that the funding to upgrade those facilities comes at the cost of not doing something somewhere else, say a primary school. 

Dunfermline Press: Councillor Graeme Downie, who represents the West Fife and coastal villages. Councillor Graeme Downie, who represents the West Fife and coastal villages. (Image: Fife Council)

"Without being emotive, that's often where the choice lies as we tend to target our maintenance funding on primary and secondary facilities to try and provide the best possible environment for our young people."

Mr Paul said area committees have access to anti-poverty and other sources of funding that community organisations could tap into, and pointed out that those groups could also access funding that's not available to the council.

Despite the challenges of an ageing estate, the council has big plans for achieving net-zero and streamlining its assets. 

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“Climate change, and the need to achieve net zero, underlies much of the strategy,” the report explained. 

“We will continue to shrink the operational office estate by disposing or removing surplus space, and we will continue to invest in the school estate.” 

The report concluded: “The new five year strategy sets out a framework to support the continued improvement and spatial reduction in council property estate, with an improved and more fit-for-purpose asset base from which to serve our community and workforce.”