What we must fight to protect
Recently I met a Local Authority manager who runs a local authority children’s centre. It is a fantastic facility for young people. There is play equipment, BMX track, outdoor cinema, kitchens and sound recording studio. There are 10 of these in the local authority and in recent years their opening days have been cut bit by bit.
The manager told me a story. He asked some of the children who visit where chips come from? The response was “Iceland”. The manager planted potato seeds with the children and taught them where chips come from. He then went on to challenge the children to see how many people they could feed with £10. Most came back with meals that could feed 3 or so people. But after growing vegetables in the centre garden and some basic cookery lessons the children soon knew how to feed 20 people.
This is just one example of the fantastic services local authorities operate. Some people may read this and say that this learning should be done in schools. However, these centres are open after school finishes - If these centres are not open where will they go? Local Authorities are required to make savings and it’s tough to decide where the axe falls.
You may wonder why I, a FM practitioner, have such a passionate view on this subject. Well I believe that although FM is a non-core, non-front line service, it deserves strategic input in to the core services of a Local Authority. Local Authorities property and support service portfolio is currently experiencing rapid change as a result of the decisions being taken to make budget. It is up to us FMs to deliver services to local authorities that support their changing business. Here are some thoughts on how to do this in Local Authority FM:
1. Right size the estate to the projected size of the organisation
Understanding how much space is needed is obviously key. Keeping space open plan and flexible will minimise costs of churn. Perhaps keeping some “swing” space which can be used if needed or let to new local businesses – can Local Authority FMs become a local traded service, generating revenue?
2. Establish facilities to co-locate services reducing the quantity of smaller properties
Can a library be the job centre, children’s centre and housing offices all in one? If these can be collocated it would save in all areas whilst protecting the services.3. Centralise all FM budgets across all departments to maximise synergies
Point 2 is rarely achieveable if budgets aren’t centralised. There are also big procurement benefits if only one department is buying all FM goods and services. A single point of decision making will also help with points 1 and 2 to speed up change and maximise efficiency.My view is that once we deliver at this level waste will be removed, costs will come down in non-front line areas and the axe may not need to be as big on the front line – especially on services future generations rely on.