Innovative public sector property scheme to be extended

Hull GuildhallOne of the UK’s most innovative property strategies, the One Public Sector Estate programme is to be extended, the Government has announced. The initiative was established in June of last year in 12 pilot areas as a way for central and local government departments to share offices and other public sector property. The programme will now be extended to as many as 15 new authorities across the country with the Cabinet Office claiming that the pilot schemes have already  saved around £21m in under a year and that the sale of property freed up by the scheme will raise an additional £88 million. The strategy is jointly managed by the property arm of the Cabinet Office who are responsible for similar initiatives in central government, and the Local Government Association.

The initial pilot areas in England were: Bristol, Cheshire West and Chester, Essex, Hampshire, Hull, Leeds, Nottingham, Portsmouth, Sheffield, Surrey, Warrington and Worcestershire. Each local authority taking part in the scheme is expected to apply local knowledge to make more informed decisions about the use, development and divestment of public sector property.  The onus is on delivering more efficient solutions which might include the sharing of property and the sale of land as a way of boosting local economies and promoting development.

The latest announcement is designed to build on the successes in the pilot areas including:

  • The overall number of council offices in Hull (Guildhall pictured above) has been cut from 43 to 29 alongside other initiatives to share back office functions.  The changes generated £971,000 in capital receipts in 2013/14, a £292,000 reduction in running costs. The council now expects to repeat these results going forward.
  • Surrey County Council has established a joint project with Spelthorne Borough Council, the Ministry of Justice and the NHS to reduce the number of public sector offices in the town of Staines. They believe the project will free up land for over 300 homes  as well as raising between £15m and £20m in land sales and reducing operating costs by as much as half.

The new phase of the scheme, which is funded by the Cabinet Office’s Government Property Unit and delivered by the Local Government Association, will invite bids from other local authorities who will each receive £40,000 in initial funding, as well as support and advice to help them deliver the programme. The intention is to add 15 more local authorities to the pilot areas.