October 5, 2022

How the federal government must handle its sprawling property portfolio

Managing central authorities property successfully helps to help authorities priorities corresponding to web zero and levelling up. Authorities has a method to make use of its property to greatest impact and unlock financial savings, however longstanding issues corresponding to poor information pose main dangers to its profitable supply, based on the Nationwide Audit Workplace (NAO).

Central authorities property, valued at £158 billion, is certainly one of authorities’s largest property. It contains workplaces, hospitals, academy faculties, jobcentres, courts, prisons and museums. The Workplace of Authorities Property (OGP) units the strategic path for the administration of presidency property. The Cupboard Workplace has categorised properties into 12 portfolios (corresponding to well being, defence and college portfolios), 10 of that are led by a single division or arm’s-length physique. The Authorities Property Company (GPA) units and implements a property technique for the federal government’s workplace and warehouse portfolios.

Within the final 5 years, authorities has launched 11 programmes to make central authorities property extra environment friendly and cost-effective. For instance, it has diminished the scale of the general-purpose property held by central authorities (corresponding to workplaces) by 6% between 2017 and 2020. The Cupboard Workplace is overseeing Locations for Progress, which goals to maneuver 22,000 civil servants from London to the areas by 2030. As of March 2022, 5,950 relocations (27% of the whole) have been accomplished. The GPA is liable for Part 2 of the Authorities Hubs programme, which includes relocating civil servants to 17 massive, state-of-the-art buildings strategically positioned throughout the nation.

An absence of fine information is a serious barrier to efficient resolution making about authorities property. The OGP doesn’t have complete, real-time info on how central authorities property is distributed across the nation or workplace occupancy following the COVID-19 pandemic. The GPA is piloting methods of measuring occupancy of the workplaces it manages, nevertheless it has restricted details about the workplaces held by departments. Delays in implementing InSite, a brand new database of central authorities property, have hindered the Cupboard Workplace’s makes an attempt to gather extra and better-quality information.

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Departments should not have correct workforce planning information on the variety of staff and their location, which makes it tough for the GPA to plan and implement departmental relocations. The impression of the COVID-19 pandemic on methods of working has made it tougher for departments to anticipate what their future house necessities will probably be.

Authorities is taking steps to recruit property workers and develop the abilities of current workers, however many initiatives are at an early stage. Since 2020, a Property Quick Stream for graduate recruitment and the Authorities College of Property1 have been launched. Departments instructed us there had been enhancements however that there was extra work to be completed.

The spending assessment cycle makes it extra advanced to make the case for longer-term funding programmes. Funding for programmes, like Locations for Progress, is for certain solely till 2025.

The COVID-19 pandemic, and authorities’s intention to relocate civil servants to the areas and to cut back their quantity, will alter authorities’s use of and demand for workplace property. Authorities has signalled its intention to encourage extra workplace working, however deliberate headcount reductions could lead to a decrease demand for workplace lodging.

The NAO recommends that the OGP ought to take immediate and decisive motion to implement InSite. The OGP and GPA ought to focus on onboarding plans with the departments that haven’t but agreed to switch the administration of their workplaces to the GPA, and agree on whether or not these plans stay achievable and signify worth for cash. The OGP ought to work with HM Treasury to think about what long-term monetary settlements can be found to greatest incentivise initiatives with the potential for long-term financial savings. The Cupboard Workplace also needs to work with departments to arrange workforce plans for the following 5 years.

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Gareth Davies, the pinnacle of the NAO, mentioned: “Authorities might want to overcome many challenges whether it is to get the perfect out of its property. This contains urgently addressing information issues so it might probably make evidence-based choices about its property that ship efficiencies and save taxpayers cash.”