DTZ: Public bodies lack collaboration

Michael Hunt

Local government organisations are missing out on millions of pounds in potential savings by not collaborating to use assets efficiently, according to a new DTZ survey.

The real estate adviser revealed that 42% of local government organisations are missing out in potential savings.

DTZ said this is despite the belief among the overwhelming majority of senior local government officers that collaboration initiatives can achieve significant cost reductions.

DTZ, which advises one in three local authorities and more than 30 central government departments on their property strategy, surveyed more than 100 key decision makers across a range of local government bodies to assess the progress of collaboration across the public sector following the Total Place pilots.

The findings show that almost half of the public sector organisations surveyed have yet to formally introduce a collaboration programme, and are failing to achieve considerable property cost savings that could help protect delivery of frontline services.

John Keyes, director in the public sector team at DTZ Manchester, said: "There is a dominant view among senior local government officers that co-location, for instance, is financially advantageous and would unlock service delivery benefits as well as improve customer service. With 71% believing that collaboration can occur without intervention from Whitehall, our study reveals a real willingness to re-examine the fundamentals of how the public sector should operate.

"However, if public sector entities do not collaborate to reduce property costs, which represent one of their most identifiable and manageable overheads, this raises serious concerns about their ability to adapt to life after the Spending Review."

DTZ's research also shows that 65% of local government bodies believe that shared asset utilisation and co-location with a public sector partner is the only way that true collaboration can work.

James Grierson, head of public sector at DTZ, adds: "The vast majority of proposed public sector collaboration initiatives focus on co-location. However, most public bodies could cut their overheads far more considerably by pooling and collectively outsourcing a wider array of functions, from payroll to facilities and estates management."

Although the Total Place initiative has lost pace following the change in Government, DTZ still believes its principles stand and the need to promote collaboration across the public sector has heightened.

The study reveals that one in five senior local government officers see collaboration as a threat to their organisation, with 48% confident that it is not.

Although 85% of senior local government officers expect to be collaborating voluntarily in the short to medium-term, DTZ said there are serious doubts about the ability of public sector managers to implement collaboration initiatives successfully. A quarter of those surveyed felt that the strategic management capacity of their organisation would be a 'constraint' to effective collaboration.

Keyes added: "While some progress has been made, our research shows that the public sector still has a long way to go if it is to harness the full benefits of collaboration. It will not only need to ensure that it has the managerial expertise in place to successfully implement these initiatives, but will also need to address culture and attitudes among staff to ensure that all public bodies are equally committed to working together to drive down costs."

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