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Councils can save £billions on their property

10 February 2011

Local government could manage their property estates to save £7bn a year, improve services and reduce their environmental impact according to a report from Westminster Sustainable Business Forum.

Last week Eric Pickles MP and Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government launched a report showing how local government can save £7bn 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", has cross-party support and backing from the public and private sectors. 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 percent 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.
Pickles 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".
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."
Commenting on the report’s findings, Adrian Ringrose, Chief Executive of Interserve, said,
"Interserve recognises that the public sector needs to maximise the return from its estate now more than ever before. We are actively involved in assisting local government organisations in identifying and delivering efficiency opportunities, and see this report as an important contribution to the debate on how best this can happen."
The report includes a case study from Birmingham City Council which will reduce the 55 buildings it uses for office space to eight, saving 50,000 sq m. One building in particular, the Lancaster Circus Council Building has already cut 10,000 sq m of floor space, generating savings of £3.5m per year in running costs, making a carbon reduction of 40 percent.
Stephen Hughes, CEO of Birmingham Council said: "Working in this manner has been a success story for us; in these times of fiscal austerity, I would urge other local councils to try the same methods".

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