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A New Political Order. Will it change FM UK?

15 June 2007

A degree of inertia may well pervade the political agenda, says Michael Cant, but what will this mean for the Facilities Management sector?

Gordon Brown is shortly to take up the reins of government. Surprisingly, commentators are struggling to find out what his ‘new order’ really means. From the perspective of the political landscape, an uncontested leadership brings with it some real challenges in interpretation. How he will deal with the military legacy, the devolution debate, and his relationship with George

Gordon Brown is not trying to distance himself from historicaldecisions: he acknowledges his instrumental role in government since 1997 but now appears to be seeking an amnesty, a moving-on from the past. He is confident his new regime will make good, but the policies and programme for this have not yet been defined for the electorate.

Regardless, the property and infrastructure FM sector continues to fire on all cylinders. This must continue if Brown wants to wield a stick within more sensitive policies and areas of political value such as education and the NHS. Owner/ occupiers are enjoying bumper trading success. In FM, increased M&A activity has perhaps improved not only the quality of support service delivery, but corporate UK enjoys better and more efficient (cost benefits included) facilities services. The property sector is reaching new levels of performance and activity around the globe. This is all potentially good news.

For the RICS however, the change in government brings some degree of additional influence to bear. The RICS has commenced Judicial Review proceedings against the Department for Communities and Local Government for its failure to carry out proper consultation prior to implementing new legislation to introduce Home Information Packs (HIP’s) in England and Wales. At the same time, and ahead of the UK Government White Paper on planning, RICS called on the Government to push its sustainability agenda in the built environment by reforming the planning system.

The RICS continues to lead on these and many other issues that touch on the FM sector.The potential to guide and shape FM is there, and this influence is being exercised for the first time in recent history.

So what of the next few Brown years in government? From the RICS FM Faculty perspective, there are at least three themes that are likely to impact our sector in the short to medium term.

1. Confidence in the economy:
Concerns over interest rates rises, an overheated economy and housing prices, aligned to the continued threat of conflict
from any number of sources, create market and social uncertainty. Whilst this tends to impact the economy and other markets, FM services will remain the bedrock upon which even these altered states are founded. FM cannot be distanced in terms of impact or collateral damage!

Such is the growth of interdependence that has FM as part of its core (global corporates are now genuinely global), we are at last able to see a little more clearly the pace and depth of the sector which was unknown to but a handful some 40 years ago. We must become part of this agenda, and our property and infrastructure professional position places us centre stage.

2. Global Impact - majordisasters:
Whatever global climate change transpires during Brown’s tenure, he is certain to find a series of potentially major
and interlinked global disasters to manage. The RICS has a key role to play. Dr David Owen, Chairman RICS President’s Major
Disaster Management Commission, is clear on the influence and impact of global issues on FM. ‘Whether it is a major tsunami or an earthquake, property and FM must form the bridge between humanitarian work post-disaster and on-going stabilisation and reconstruction’. The rapid response to a disaster needs to be aligned to the reconstruction effort – and property and facilities is pivotal to longterm sustainability. The RICS FM Faculty is to work closely with David and the Commission in leading the agenda for FM in this critical area.

3: Leading and Influencing theEconomy:
Recent reports on the value of FM in the UK economy values the sector in the hundreds of £billions. This now ranks ‘Support Services’ alongside many other business sectors by value to the economy. The RICS is starting to work collaboratively with all both in and outside the Institute, and the alignment of property to FM will ultimately create a staggering influence on capital markets around the globe.

FM can now send a message to the market and Gordon – ignore the impact of an uncertain property and infrastructure sector at your political peril. Whether it is policy on immigration, taxation or the economic implications of TUPE,Gordon Brown and his team need to be guided by FM UK.

● Michael Cant is Vice Chairman of the RICS FM Faculty

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