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Cutting the cost of property via flexible working

The urgent need to cut the cost of running the public sector property portfolio has brought strategic property management to the fore, with the Home Office recently introducing flexible working at its Westminster headquarters.

The Central Government estate alone is estimated to cost around £25 billion to operate each year. As a result, property management in both central and local Government is under scrutiny, with departments and local authorities under pressure to cut running costs.

In July, John McCready, head of the Government’s new property unit, said that Government should look to the private sector for ways to cut the annual bill for property running costs. McCready believes the real issue that must be tackled by Government departments is occupancy and he praised the private sector for transforming itself via increasingly efficient space utilisation (source: Building).

Leading from the front in the drive to reduce Government expenditure, the Home Office has recently introduced flexible working arrangements, allowing the department to free up space in other buildings and make valuable savings on its property budget. According to a new consortium that includes Watts and Mott MacDonald, set up this summer to advise public sector clients on space planning and flexible working, the first step towards maximising real estate is to identify any surplus accommodation.

ptimum use of buildings is then made possible by the adoption of effective workspace strategies. By “working beyond walls” and looking at the way the three key overheads of any operation: people, premises and technology, impact on each other. The consortium claims it can achieve organisational change, not only through rationalisation and more efficient management of premises, but also by introducing more flexible working patterns for staff. This might include making best use of technology and hot-desking, as well as simple improvements such as sharing common areas and meeting space, and incorporating innovative storage solutions.

With swingeing cuts to public sector budgets now filtering through to construction consultants, contractors and suppliers, there is an opportunity here for both central and local government to make genuine organisational improvements, and reduce overheads while continuing to utilise the skills of construction and property advisers with expertise in this area. Mark Few, Director of Watts’ Public Sector team, firmly believes that the capital investment required to achieve organisational change will be more than paid for via the savings made by improving business efficiency and making better use of public sector premises.

For more information contact Mark Few, Director of Watts’ Public Sector team on 0207 280 8000.

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