Decision Maker: Place Scrutiny Committee
Decision status: Recommendations Approved
Is Key decision?: No
Is subject to call in?: No
6.1 The Chief Operating Officer introduced the report and outlined that the purpose of the report is to update the Committee on activity under the SPACES Programme. This and the following report were requested as a result of the initial scoping work the Committee carried out on vacant and surplus property.
6.2 The acronym SPACES stands for “Strategic Property Asset Collaboration in East Sussex” and is a partnership of a group of public bodies and third sector organisations, which was established in 2013. The work of the SPACES Programme is guided by a Board made up of representatives from each of the constituent organisations, with the Chair of the Board rotating each year between the partners. The Chief Operating Officer introduced Bethan Bolland (ESCC) who will be taking up the role of SPACES Programme Support from 15 July 2019.
6.3 The group does not manage or have responsibility for any property assets, but seeks to get better use of public sector estate. This is done by reviewing the use of assets, and by partners exchanging information on their assets in order to achieve best value. For example, by sharing information about surplus property and property or office space needed, property assets can be shared to the mutual benefit of the partners. One key area of work is the interface to the One Public Estate (OPE) programme. The SPACES Programme has included work to create collaborative shared work space such as hot desks or ‘touch down’ space, which can be used by staff from the various partners and Civil Service staff from central Government departments (e.g. Department for Work and Pensions).
6.4 The Committee discussed the report and asked a number of questions or sought clarification as summarised below.
6.5 The creation of collaborative shared work space is intended to enable greater flexible working for individual staff members in situations where they may find it more efficient, or where it is necessary to use alternative facilities. This can reduce travelling; deal with travel or other disruptions (e.g. offices being out of use) and; enable staff to collaborate with partners. Participating organisations have to sign up to information security standards and Health and Safety standards for the shared work spaces.
Building Utilisation and Efficiency
6.6 Each partner uses their own methodology for measuring building utilisation, which takes into account the strategic importance of the building use or activity. Most local authorities have introduced flexible or ‘agile’ working so they can be more flexible about their use of space, whereas the Police and other services may have less flexibility in the way they provide services.
6.7 When East Sussex County Council (ESCC) carried out the Agile review of buildings between 2013 and 2016 it used a ratio of six desks for every ten staff. It is now starting a utilisation survey to test the occupation of floors in each of the buildings. This will produce a utilisation figure as a measure of building productivity. This can then be used to assess whether there is scope to locate further staff in the building. This process ensures ESCC is making the maximum utilisation of space. If at the end of this process there is spare capacity then ESCC can go back to the SPACES partners to see if there is a match with other partners’ needs or whether there is an opportunity to reflect service provision synergies.
6.8 The SPACES Programme initiated a location based approach in 2014/15 to proactively review partners’ property assets and services on geographic basis within a particular area. This work resulted in the shared use of assets, such as the Registration Service moving into the Town Hall in Hastings. Under this approach the assets remain the responsibility of the owning organisation, but partners seek to work together to tack advantage of opportunities or surplus assets which are offered to them.
6.9 The running and maintenance costs of older buildings are taken into account when reviewing existing property assets. ESCC has an operational efficiency target of £148.46 per square metre (2019/20) for the running costs of buildings in its operational estate. If a building moves outside this target, ESCC would seek to review the use of the building.
One Public Estate
6.10 The sums of money outlined in paragraphs 2.6 to 2.8 of the report were obtained from the One Public Estate (OPE) programme. This is collaboration between the Local Government Association (LGA), the Office of Government Property (within the Cabinet Office) and the Treasury to help local authorities and others make the most efficient use of their property estate. The SPACES Programme has been successful in obtaining funding from OPE to develop the business case for the co-location of services, service relocation and site development. In the latest bidding round, SPACES successfully secured a £350,000 grant and a £100,000 loan. This approach also looks at property assets as an opportunity for regeneration (e.g. the planned move of fire station in Lewes to release land for a regeneration project).
Health and Social Care integration
6.11 The development of the estate for Health and Social Care integration is outside the remit of the SPACES Partnership, but it does include opportunities to facilitate this through work for the Adult Social Care department and joint partnership working (e.g. the inclusion in the West St. Leonards site of the potential to develop a medical centre). It was noted that the NHS funding of new medical centres has been suspended due to the comprehensive spending review. So there are some challenges to the investment activity in medical centres, as rents may not be guaranteed in the future. This may mean they do not provide such a good opportunity for ESCC to obtain a secure return from investment as well as further its policy goals by investing in such facilities.
SPACES benefits and project details
6.12 The Committee asked how the financial benefit to ESCC outlined in paragraph 1.5 of the report matched up with the delivery of the projects listed in Appendix 1. The Chief Operating Officer agreed to provide further information on the savings that ESCC has made from participation in the SPACES Programme outside of meeting. He also agreed to provide a worked example of one or two of the projects listed in the appendix.
6.13 The Committee RESOLVED to note report and the current programme activity taking place.
Publication date: 19/06/2019
Date of decision: 11/06/2019
Decided at meeting: 11/06/2019 - Place Scrutiny Committee