Councils in the East who have taken steps to review their asset management arrangements are reaping the rewards in terms of financial savings and improved services, say the East of England Local Government Association.
Schemes currently running across Essex and Cambridgeshire are providing councils with a multitude of opportunities to improve collaborative working as well as systems to better manage their estates and land, property, facilities management and contracts.
Several of them presented their findings at the East of England LGA Asset Management master class in Bury St Edmunds on 26th September.
The team from the East of England LGA are urging other local authorities to learn from these examples and implement similar schemes to help improve efficiency and make savings as a result.
Andrew Rowson, asset management service lead from the East of England LGA has been working closely with Essex County Council and other partners to implement several schemes under the ‘East 17’ umbrella; an initiative which promotes collaborative working between the 17 local authorities in Essex.
One of these is the Essex Property Asset Map (EPAM), a low cost, cloud based online mapping solution which has been designed by public sector partners and the East of England LGA, and includes all local authority, police, fire, health and central government civil estate data.
EPAM allows all public sector partners to view and share each other’s information, together with basic asset attributes such as use and tenure. The map is also used to identify potential collaborative opportunities.
Mr. Rowson said: “This initiative has been really successful and fully aligns with the government agenda on collaborative working and transparency. It is starting to be rolled out across other counties as it has clearly demonstrated the benefits of fully exploiting their property assets and treating them on a commercial basis.”
The East of England LGA also provided support to Essex County Council’s successful bid to be a One Public Estate pilot council, undertaking a series of area locality reviews; collecting data on local authority assets and analysing what opportunities were present to make better use of sites.
An area locality review was conducted in Epping Forest using the EPAM system and comprised six steps; a desktop review, fieldwork, analysis, workshop, actions and reporting, which took less than three weeks.
Around 150 sites were inspected and analysed and as a result, some 20 opportunities were identified as having good potential either to be sites for housing and creating a commercial revenue stream or for improved use.
Glen Chipp, Epping Forest’s Chief Executive said “To support the one public estate programme in Essex our district council elected to be a pilot area for a locality review and this has generated a host of new opportunities. I’m hopeful that working with partners we can now translate them into results on the ground”.
Mr Rowson added: “Better management of estates can positively affect the growth agenda and provide social benefits such as an increase in available housing for councils. These area locality reviews are now being rolled out across other local authorities in Essex and councils are seeing immediate results from collecting, sharing and using asset data.”
In Cambridgeshire, public sector organisations have been participating in a programme called Making Assets Count (MAC). This programme brings the organisations together in partnership with the key objectives of reducing the cost of property occupation and using their combined property portfolio more effectively.
In St Ives, a particularly effective initiative saw Cambridgeshire County Council's Adult Day Service relocate from their small, privately-leased premises into the town's Police Station, a building of which only around one-third was being used by the Police.
As a result of sharing the building and reducing their costs, the Adult Day Care Service are now able to provide more services to the community and savings made through a reduction in revenue costs reduces the burden on other public services.
On the successes of MAC, David Bethell from the MAC Partnership said: “The partners throughout Cambridgeshire have taken time to nurture their relationships and have created a solid foundation on which the partnership is based. By working together and looking at the bigger picture it became clear that sharing property and facilities was a much smarter way of working.
“Although this is a long game we hope to start seeing revenue savings of around 20% and much more efficient estate management, resulting in better services for the people of Cambridgeshire.”
The Asset Management Master class took place on 26th September at West Suffolk House and delegates enjoyed presentations from Glen Chipp, Chief Executive, Epping Forest District Council, Andrew Rowe from Concertus, and John Harrison, Executive Director Resources, Peterborough City Council amongst others.
Councillor Richard Stay who is chairman of the East of England LGA’s Improvement Panel and chaired the master class said “I was impressed with the range of initiatives taking place across our region and pleased to see the progress councils are making in this vital area of asset management. We will be working as hard as we can to ensure they get the support they need to do even more”.