Getting the most out of public estate in North Tyneside
In these times of austerity, our local authority partners are having to make cost savings across their services. Many are now reviewing their operational properties to make savings. Property is usually an organisation’s second highest cost after staff, yet is often looked at much less strategically.
Closing buildings and continuing to operate as normal may bring short term revenue savings, but a much larger cultural shift is required to make significant sustainable savings.
In North Tyneside, our local authority partner is embracing a complete change in philosophy towards agile working. This can’t be done overnight, and requires a change in mind-set, away from ‘my desk’ to ‘our space’.
Capita is co-located with the local authority at its headquarters on Cobalt Business Park. I’m proud that we have led the way by reducing our space to demonstrate it can be done with no detriment to service delivery. We have also been able to support and guide the council and the many different internal services in finding solutions that work for everybody.
The council’s adoption of agile working has come in conjunction with a significant sub- letting opportunity. The local authority took a long lease of two buildings on Cobalt Business Park nearly 10 years ago, in a very different economic environment.
Through negotiations with Capita’s property team, a significant sub-letting was recently completed with a global professional services company for them to take a floor of one of those buildings, with first option on subsequent floors as they become available. Providing exclusivity for further floors was particularly challenging to negotiate as a balance had to be found between the company’s and the council’s needs.
Capita’s role included negotiating the lease length, rent and service charge details, maintenance responsibilities, and other lease conditions and caveats. Internally, our Project Managers have carried out the practical elements of the move, including relocating employees, arranging removals, organising building modifications, resolving security/ICT issues and calculating running costs for the service charge. We have now started planning for vacating future floors of the building.
One of the key elements’ of the project’s success has been the partnership approach adopted by Capita and North Tyneside Council. Our team has worked closely with senior officers from the council and the project has also been supported by council’s Strategic Property Group, which is chaired by North Tyneside’s Elected Mayor.
This was one of the biggest rental agreements that the local authority has ever secured, and it also supports the council’s wider aims of helping businesses and creating jobs. Getting buy-in from staff is also much easier if they can see the vacated space being utilised by another party, rather than sitting empty. The hypothetical budget savings become tangible income streams.
Not all opportunities may be suitable for private sector involvement, but further opportunities may come through the One Public Estate (OPE) programme. Through public sector bodies working together and giving significant weight to their property assets, solutions can be developed that make best use of assets across the public sector, bringing together teams that have traditionally been isolated but can deliver a much more beneficial service through co-location. Capita have acted as programme managers across the country, and are ideally placed through their local authority relationships to drive this forward.
By Brett Devenish, head of property at Capita’s North Tyneside Partnership