Earlier this week the communities secretary Eric Pickles stood on the Terrace of the House of Commons to announce to an invited audience the results of a report into the way that the public sector manages its property. This has been an ongoing issue for the public sector for several years now but the latest initiative made fifteen new recommendations based on the findings of the report: Leaner and Greener: Delivering Effective Estate Management.
The ultimate aim is to make savings of around £7bn a year, not least by making savings of up to 30 per cent on space and the cost of managing it. Now, this is ambitious stuff but is it just a case of the public sector catching up with what the private sector has been moving towards for some time now? And, of course, will they be able to achieve it? We know from decades of experience that there are cultural and organisational inertias that make this kind of thing more (or less) of a challenge for some than others. Sometimes it's easier said than done. Sometimes too rapid change can cause more harm than good.
Whatever the practicalities for individual organisations, we must all welcome a clear focus on the design and management of property. What we must guard against is that the current onus on cutting costs does not become counterproductive by forcing people into making bad decisions.
We must also be aware that property may need investment up front to achieve longer term efficiencies.
There should not be a climate in which the business case for investment is lost because of a short-term drive to cut costs.
Ann Clarke is a director at commercial and office interiors company Claremont Group Interiors.