Council praised in national property report

By on 02/02/2011 in News

This afternoon (February 2), Eric Pickles MP introduced a report detailing how local government can save £7billion a year in running costs, cut carbon and improve services through managing their property assets efficiently, sustainably and in partnership with other service providers.

Produced as part of an inquiry by the Westminster Sustainable Business Forum, chaired by Matthew Hancock MP, the report, “Leaner and Greener: Delivering Effective Estate Management”, contains a case study on successful work carried out by Birmingham City Council and has cross-party support and backing from the public and private sectors.

Eric Pickles MP, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, said: “This timely report shows that every council could save millions by managing their properties better, using the money to protect frontline services or keep council tax down.”

The purpose of the inquiry was to investigate how the public sector could improve the sustainability of its estate management.

The inquiry's recommendations suggest that if local authorities streamline office space use, sharing it with other service providers and local authorities, they can reduce their space requirements by up to 30 per cent and save £7bn a year in running costs.

Moreover, for the space that remains in use, local government can save a further £190 per sq m per year by following a suite of sustainability measures.

Matthew Hancock MP, Chair of the inquiry, said: “Local Government owns huge amounts of our towns and cities. On investigation, we often found poor use of that property, costing money and adding to carbon emissions.

“What we found surprising, is that where improvements have been made, the people working there told us that they had not just saved cost and saved carbon, but also improved services as a result.

“This report looks at case studies where bold changes have been made, and assesses how much can be saved from improving use of the buildings that surround us.”

Case studies where these management methods have already been put into practice are cited throughout the report, including Birmingham City Council which through the Working for the Future Business Transformation programme will reduce the 55 buildings it uses for office space to just eight, saving 50,000sq m.

One building in particular, 1 Lancaster Circus will cut 10,000sq m of floor space, generating savings of £3.5m per year in running costs, making a carbon reduction of 40 per cent.

In his speech for the event, Cllr Randal Brew, Cabinet Member for Finance at Birmingham City Council, said: “We feel we are ahead of the game in Birmingham. We're already seeing the rewards for rationalising our property - we're on track to save £100million over the next 25 years – and we encourage other organisations in the public sector to learn from our experience.

“We knew change was required and we didn't waste time in addressing the issues. We saw this challenge of transforming our property as a great opportunity for Birmingham. Not only could we bring our office portfolio into the 21st century, we could also use it as a catalyst for culture change to bring in new working practices and improve the services we provide.

“Through a combination of these new buildings and work practices, and managing these buildings more effectively, we're already reaping the rewards and we're surpassing our expectations. Even those who were sceptical of our ambitious plans are being impressed by the results.”

ENDS

For more information and images, please contact:

•    Kris Kowalewski at Birmingham City Council, tel: 0121 303 3621

•    Rosie Shute at Policy Connect, email: rosie.shute@policyconnect.org.uk, tel: 0207 202 8587

Notes to editors

•    The report, “Leaner and Greener: Delivering Effective Estate Management” was produced by WSBF, and sponsored by Colliers International, Consensus Business Group (GBG) and Interserve.

•    The Westminster Sustainable Business Forum (WSBF) is an independent, cross-party and not-for-profit coalition of key UK businesses, government agencies and parliamentarians, which seeks to promote effective sustainability policy in the UK. For more information, see  http://www.policyconnect.org.uk/wsbf

•    Business Transformation is Birmingham City Council's ambitious nine-strand programme which aims to modernise and enhance services delivered across the whole authority to citizens. It is projected that the programme will realise benefits of around £1billion over the ten years to 2016.

•    Service Birmingham is a strategic partnership between Birmingham City Council and Capita which will support a transformation in the way the council works; improving services and contributing to its efficiency agenda. This strategic partnership forms part of the council’s objective to find better and more innovative ways of delivering services for the benefit of employees and citizens. The principle of this joint venture focuses on the provision of cost effective, sector leading, ICT services and in supporting the council in achieving its business transformation objectives.

•    Working for the Future, an essential part of the council's wider Business Transformation programme, will consolidate the operational office portfolio and will be a catalyst for increasing workforce agility across the council contributing to the delivery of four key outcomes: better customer service, improved workplaces and work styles, greater sustainability and lower property operating costs. The Central Administrative Buildings (CAB) element of WFTF programme is set to realise £100million of net benefits over 25 years.

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