Despite the headlines of recent weeks of "£1.5bn of property available for redevelopment", and a focus on Government Hubs there is in truth little that is new here. In 2009 The Final Report of the Operational Efficiency Programme came to much the same conclusion. The specific sections in the Report on 

  • asset management, led by Gerry Grimstone (now Lord Grimstone), the then Chairman of Standard Life and 
  • property, led by Lord Carter of Coles

flagged the potential  for a much more efficient pan government approach of its assets and the property estate. The initial focus was on easily realisable savings and has perhaps been masked by the demands of the political cycle and successive  Comprehensive  Spending Review periods.

The 2009 Report bears a remarkable resemblance to current proposals:

  • co-location of government requirement on shared sites giving long term flexibility
  • identification of surplus requirement through space optimisation
  • value sought through site disposal.
  • location typically away from London

Acknowledging the work done consistently by what is now the Government Property Agency, now in the second year of its 10 year plan, this is is a continuing process and needs to be planned and resourced for the long term.

Whilst some government assets may be seen as prime, the majority are not, with tired buildings evidencing lack of investment, or in areas where market preparatory work is needed to realise a fair value. As many public sector clients will testify, this is less about headlines and more about supporting a sustainable 10 year plan. Resource and investment is needed to deliver for the longer term.

Early discussion with departmental and arms length bodies on individual property strategies will typically focus on a range of options. Working with private sector parties in a collaborative way, particularly where clear social value objectives are sought as part of the outcome needs good preparation time and a structured approach to market testing. There will doubtless be some properties that can generate meaningful value, but that value requires re-investment to deliver a truly effective government estate.