Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Central needs to look more to local…

Workplace transformation, co-location, the public sector lease moratorium and ‘low-hanging fruit’ were all keywords used by Stephen Lovegrove - Chief Executive of the Shareholder Executive in his opening address to the Public Property Summit, at the Business Design Centre in London today in association with Capita Symonds.

Lovegrove was standing in for Minister for the Cabinet Office Francis Maude and his address echoed many of the strategies outlined by the latter at his Public Property Breakfast speech two weeks ago. Much in evidence again was the government’s ‘Stop & Go’ property strategy of putting a hold across all departments on the renewal of any property leases, and freeing up surplus land for housing and redevelopment.

The day’s first keynote session: ‘Outlining Government’s property strategy across the public sector’ featured Neil Warsop - Chief Operating Officer, Government Property Unit (GPU), Jenny Coombs - Project Director, Local Partnerships and Jonathan Goring - Managing Director, Capita Symonds. Giles Barrie – Editor, Property Week was Chair.

Warsop outlined how the Government’s ‘stop’ strategy had made a quick and significant impact, delivering c. £90m in the first 10 months since the election and set to double that by the end of this financial year. In terms of engaging with the private sector he explained how the GPU’s strategy was to consolidate internally first (to ‘get its own house in order first’ by tackling the ‘low hanging fruits’) before looking to the private sector to help with total workplace management and help it to ‘generate greater savings that the public sector can achieve alone’.

Warsop also illustrated what the government was doing to promote growth (the ‘Go’ part of its strategy) through the release of surplus land by departments and also the opportunities for stimulating regeneration through the potential relocation of government departments.

‘Does this country know what it owns?’ was the question posed by Jonathan Goring - focusing on the need for a better understanding – across both public and private sectors – of both local and central government property assets.

Both sectors can only fully understand efficiency, he asserted, when there is a clear picture of what assets are owned. Examples of where this date would be invaluable included the better collection of leaked revenues, rents and license fees across numerous departments such as Defence, Environment and Justice.

Jenny Coombs outlined how the best local authorities had been working on the property rationalisation challenge for many years and that the ‘argument had been won’ a long time ago at local government level on the value of rationalisation.

Coombs also pointed to a shift in approach by local authorities to co-location and shared facilities (something that Councils have perhaps been resistant to in the past). The scale of the deficit and the need for savings had driven this, forcing them to work together and redesign services.

It was clear that high performing local authorities are ‘well ahead’ of central government in their rationalisation of properties under their control – this, suggested Goring, was both because they have been doing it for longer and also that they have more fully embraced – so far – the ethos of workplace transformation and new ways of working. Both Goring and Coombs encouraged the GPU to look at the best practice already being achieved in some local authorities and engage with its local government partners more in achieving its own, much larger challenges.

In summing up the session Giles Barrie emphasised how simple property asset management – drawing on the expertise of both the public and private sectors – can achieve so much in terms of its contribution to the government’s deficit reduction strategy, without the need for major cuts or an impact on frontline services.

This was a sentiment shared across the podium and with delegates at the Summit, the challenge – summed up by Goring and by questions from the floor at the end of the session – is how this process can happen at a more rapid pace and how the private sector can fully engage with government in this process.

Friday, 21 October 2011

‘Stop’ is working, but what about the ‘Go’?

Capita Symonds was sponsor of Movers & Shakers’ Public Property breakfast event at The Dorchester, London on 21 October.

Over 400 attendees sat in The Dorchester’s Ballroom to listen to a keynote opening address by Francis Maude – Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General, followed by a debate chaired by Giles Barrie – Editor, Property Week and featuring Neil Warsop – Chief Operating Officer, Government Property Unit, Shareholder Executive; Cllr Sir Merrick Cockell – Chairman, Local Government Association; Francis Salway – Group Chief Executive, Land Securities; and Jonathan Goring – Managing Director, Capita Symonds.

Francis Maude gave his thoughts on central government property, and how its estate can contribute to the twofold challenges of dealing with the deficit, and at the same time promoting growth.

The public sector estate is, he conceded, too dispersed, in the wrong location, of poor grade and badly occupied in terms of utilisation of space. There is also currently too much of its estate under lease rather than freehold occupation.

The solutions to these issues, he outlined, are relocation, co-location and the better use of space – freeing up surplus property for redevelopment. A moratorium on the renewal of any new leases (the so-called ‘Stop’ element of the government’s current strategy) is also focussed on increasing the amount of freehold property being utilised.

Maude also emphasised that the government approach was not only about saving money, and that ‘thinking differently about how we use property’ was also paramount – including the encouraging of hot-desking and more flexible working practices across departments.

Housebuilding was also a priority, he said, to meet current demand. Central government departments are looking at ways to make available surplus land for development - with the Ministries of Defence, Health, Transport and DEFRA already publishing their plans to make available land for a further 50,000 homes - and an extension to the ‘Build Now, Pay Later’ scheme.

In the debate that followed, Property Week Editor Giles Barrie questioned the panel on the government’s property challenge – and how the Government Property Unit (GPU) was faring so far.

Francis Salway (Land Securities) felt that by not renewing leases, the GPU was “doing what its said it would do”, however he conceded that this does present problems for property owners in the private sector. He pointed out however that many of these vacated buildings are now ripe for a change of use, with many being redeveloped for residential use.

Jonathan Goring (Capita Symonds) urged the need for central government to ‘know what it owns’ and the need for a more comprehensive database of its assets so that the opportunities for co-location, alignment to departments and leakage are fully addressed; Neil Warsop (GPU) admitted that the GPU still had some work to do in gathering this information across its estate.

Goring also challenged the private sector to “prove it can be responsible” in supporting the public sector with its property challenges, and pointed to the good examples of best practice that already exist.

While the ‘Stop’ agenda was clearly working, and generating savings, Warsop conceded that the ‘Go’ agenda – of closer working across government departments, the better utilisation of space, and the availability of surplus land for redevelopment – was still ‘a challenge’, and one that he encouraged the private sector to engage with the GPU to help address.

Giving the audience an insight into how local government was addressing its own public sector property challenges, Sir Merrick Cockell (LGA) outlined how Councils needed to be more commercial in the use of their property and how many of their challenges – in regions across the UK – were not currently a focus for central government, which is focussed on getting its own house in order.

The event was an engaging and well-informed discussion on the ongoing property challenge from a panel representing all parties that have a role to play if the rationalisation of the public estate is to play a key role in the Government’s deficit programme. As chair Giles Barrie concluded, the scale of the challenge is such that ‘there are opportunities for everyone’ to benefit from getting it right.

Capita Symonds is lead sponsor of UBM’s Public Property Summit on 02 November 2011 at the Business Design Centre, London.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

It’s not about costs…it’s about courage at Civil Service Live

‘Its not all about costs’ was the topic under discussion at the Capita Symonds session on the first day of Civil Service Live at Olympia.

Chaired by political commentator and Senior Fellow, Institute for Government Peter Riddell the session offered both a public and private sector perspective on, as Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O’Donnell (right) put it in his opening remarks “how we deliver public service with a third less money.”

O’Donnell went on to assert that the efficiency agenda is one that the civil service needs to own and that by managing the efficiency challenge – by avoiding excessive spend on procurement, communications etc – less will need to be cut from resources or front end service.

He also saw the commercial skills of the private sector as vital in helping the public sector, and mutuals, develop their ideas and potentially provide the capital necessary for making them a reality. Summing up, he challenged the private sector on how they can bring their specific skills to the public sector.

Fiona Spencer, Director of Shared Services at the Home Office outlined how shared business services – such as finance, procurement and HR – can cut costs and improve services.

She showed how the Ministry of Justice and Home Office’s shared business centre in Newport, now utilised by over 120,000 public sector staff, is now making savings of £33m pa.

Jonathan Goring, MD Capita Symonds told the audience that the private sector has “massive appetite” for working for the public sector – and for being judged on results rather than being tied into long contracts.

He explained how the private sector can bring capital investment to enable the public sector to enhance its assets, and how enhanced revenue collection such as rents can reduce the need for painful cuts elsewhere.

On behalf of the private sector he urged the public sector to “let us in and allow us to take a look” at the challenges they face so that better solutions can be proposed to the issues of the poor quality of asset/income data, ageing assets and the limited internal capital available to rationalise.

“It’s all about courage” Goring summarised, inviting individual government departments to be the first to embrace true partnership working with the private sector.

Wednesday 06 July sees Capita hosting a session on its Service Birmingham joint venture with Birmingham City Council and Capita Symonds invitation-only roundtable also takes place at the event – reported in Civil Service World magazine in coming weeks.

Friday, 11 March 2011

MIPIM 2011: Friday Update

Andrew Pryke on the final day of MIPIM 2011


Up at 6.30am. A quick breakfast, pack and a walk to the bus for Nice Airport. Streets are deserted. The bus is already waiting. I can see Rob Firth, our previous Head of Architecture in the distance. I'll try and catch up with him later. The bus fills up with MIPIM delegates. Heads are down, no one seems to want a conversation. Business appears to be over. The week has caught up with everyone!

I count the business cards I have collected this week (the exchange of cards is obligatory with everyone you meet here)...52. Not bad. A number of good leads and follow ups. I know my colleague, Norman Taylor will have more. He is Mr. MIPIM after all.
Check in at Nice Airport has it's moments. My bag has suddenly gained 4.5 kilos since departing Luton on Monday yet now has less in it (business collateral now gone). I pay the 25 euros. It's not worth arguing about and I don't feel like putting on five more shirts and three pairs of trousers (extra shoes are obviously out of the question). Security is no problem except when they insist on searching my bag (anyway do I look like a terrorist? A question that shouldn't be answered me thinks).
Ex-delegates are strewn across the departures lounge. David Young (Hurley Palmer Flatt) seems deep in thought..or asleep. Our own Cullan Riley, with red streak in his hair, wanders around looking for that last possible deal making opportunity. Our Head of Services, Neil Cartwright, hobbles in, the strain of walking up and down the Croisette has taken it's toll...or he has fallen not ask! Mike Burton, Faber Maunsell - Aecom joins me. He's had a very good MIPIM. There are no stragglers or hangers on this year. Everyone is here to for a good reason. Jim (the shoes) Totton, our own structural engineer turns up....he hasn't been to bed and says he has gained some amazing info and leads....and he got married again last night!

A coffee and croissant and I decide to call my MIPIM Blog a day. There is only so much you can do on a Blackberry....and anyway, I would like the new I-Pad......Capita Symonds.....Pretty please?

Until next year....What will we be doing and where will the industry be then?

Click here to read an interactive magazine about MIPIM 2011 from Estates Gazette.

MIPIM 2011 Update: Thursday


Andrew Pryke's pen-ultimate day at MIPIM 2011.
Another early start. However, the sun is shining and it's warm (a change from the recent cold and windy weather).

Breakfast on the beach hosted by Fira and Sidell Gibson. A glut of consultants have homed in on the coffee, orange juice and croissants. I catch up with Peter Stocks from in Libya has dried up. An old colleague from a contractor has an opportunity for me...I am dragged away before I can follow up.

Back to the London Pavilion. I bump into our exec board member Mark Norris and Damian Wild of Estates Gazette. He feels pleased he has just competed a live video link Q+A from London on the Ealing worked.
I take a wander around the Marina. A mulltitude of multi-million pound (Euro) yachts are moored. Each eblazened with corporate logos. Drinks bars ready for the next party. Arup seem to be missing from their usual position. I haven't seen anyone from Arup here this year.
I pass an American corporate yacht. A speaker bellows out "To us our handshake is our promise"...I move on swiftly!
I have a spare 30 minutes...I take a bet on how much corporate stand bling I can collect (yes, there is sometimes time for fun outside work here!). I return having done a world tour of cities and world companies....I can just about carry it all...rather juvenile I know.
I meet up with David Matthews from Building Magazine at the Capita Symonds stand. We go for a chat on the London Pavilion Terrace overlooking the beach. The weather now is very hot, the wind has died down and the week is taking it's toll. David is looking for a good story about Capita Symonds. The focus strays to major architectural practices that are in trouble (I wonder if he is going to going to print on this?). The next focus is companies left to be acquired by major companies. Again I am not drawn on this, but suggest he talks to our M.D. Jonathan Goring who arrived in Cannes today. I think that I have got away with not giving too much about Capita for now. I agree to meet up again in London. David is a great guy. It's a very pleasant and informative conversation and we part. I am beginning to think I am a bit of a media 'tart' having managed to talk to most magazines this MIPIM.

Back at the Capita Symonds stand the London Pavilion is quiet. A Russian gentleman asks me if I am from Capita Symonds. He states that he is a developer and would like me/ Capita Symonds to design a number of projects for him. It is suggested that a meeting with another developer we’re working with is arranged. It would appear that we have that illusive project(s) win that the guys back in the UK believe you should be getting at MIPIM!
It's a rush back to the hotel for another quick shower and change and out for an dinner invite with Wates. I have noticed this MIPIM a number of 'beggers' on the streets. I know that times are hard but I don't believe they are members of our industry. One chap sits beside a notice "Need petrol for my Porsche"...they get a better class of 'begger' in the South of France!
I meet my hosts, Christine Baltas and Doug Wotherspoon at Le Caveau. A very pleasant restaurant overlooking the Boule pitches (is that the term for them) and the Marina. It seems that the whole MIPIM Dutch contingent have booked the restaurant as well. They start to sing. This could be a very noisy evening. They calm down and I have yet another pleasant and informative evening with Wates and their guests. Discussions dwell on Libya and the Middle this a lost opportunity or a new market opening? At midnight we all depart and head for Morrisons Bar. I duck out and head back to my hotel.
I have an early departure from Nice Airport in the morning…

Thursday, 10 March 2011

MIPIM 2011 update: Wednesday

Andrew Pryke's Wednesday at MIPIM 2011

It's a 7.30am start; a jog along La Croisette. I am joined by a throng of other fitness delegates and locals. Legs are beginning to ache from the previous days walking up and down La Croisette to the various events... I knew I should have brought 'sensible shoes' as my mother would say (and also Norman Taylor, Capita Symonds’ MIPIM veteran... how does he know so many people here?).

A quick shower and it's off to a breakfast meeting with a Hoare Lea contact at the Carlton Hotel. I notice a text from him timed at 4.36am this morning – “am I still up for breakfast?” I am, but wonder whether he will be! I answer yes and continue to the Carlton.

Breakfast is taken at a nearby restaurant (who would want to pay the Carlton Hotel rates - I’m told it cost 23 Euros for a G+T last night!?). Coffee and a croissant are taken at a leisurely pace. A review of potential business reveals possibilities in the higher education market (and anyone reading this, hands off!)

Back at the London Pavilion, our own Mark Norris talks on Funding Development. A decent size crowd gathers, people taking notes, all attempting to unlock that edge on their opposition for that vital lead, that crucial piece of information that will enable targets to be met. Roger Madelin of Argent apparently spoke yesterday on ‘Sex and the Kings Cross Project’ ...driving the sex trade out... not encouraging it! Oh...and the only drugs you can get there now can be found at Boots!

Another dash to co-host a Capita Symonds lunch at La Plage Royale, a restaurant in a marquee on the beach. A popular spot for lunch it would seem. Aecom (inc Davis Langdon), Turner + Townsend. Our guests are set up for a heavy review of the market - Kier, Interserve, Midas and Morgan Sindall plus Jones Lang LaSalle and King Sturge. Our Willmott Dixon guest is missing...the restaurant won't let him in! A slight confusion over names and it’s all thankfully sorted.

Back to the London Pavilion for my stint at our stand. A vast crowd had gathered - obviously my popularity is growing...but no, Peter Rees is about to give his talk on the future of the City. Peter Murray is interviewing. A throng of architectural notoriety await Peter's close-to-the-edge commentary. They are not disappointed.

A simple opening question on whether there is a burden as Chief Planner in the City...Yes I am responsible for 4,000 years of urban planning and architecture in the City...only 2,000 have occurred so far though ....If you had similar powers as in France to cut mass boulevards through London what would you do...well if the French were not so good at signing surrender treatise they could have had a great City like London (always good to insult your host nation I say).....Umm, I would move the Dome of St. Pauls to Milton Keynes, actually no, they have one already and two might be viewed as a bit rude.....Peter moves on....the City is full of surprises, is there any thing that surprises you? Well my apartment overlooks south, from the City over the Thames, when I wake up every morning open the curtains, I see an enormous erection...the crowd (looked shocked)...yes it's the Shard getting higher and higher! What five architects do you most admire? Ken Shuttleworth and Terry Farrell look up.... Wren, Inigo Jones, Soane, Hawksmoor. ...oh and that great Welshman Frank Lloyd Wright (his mother was Welsh - Peter is Welsh and like to promote the Welsh) Peter has dodged the question. What do you think of Chipperfield's new Project on the South Bank...Oh you mean the 'Mini-Shard'? ....yes....well, he could have improved it by coming to talk to myself (Peter Rees) rather than just submitting it straight for planning!

I get back to what I am here for, manning our stand. I notice Rob Knight from Davis Langdon – erm, I mean Aecom. I ask him how things are going since 'the takeover' (MIPIM 2010’s worst kept secret). He highlights a vast number of positives... he’s not going to be drawn into a good story for my blog.

My stint over at the stand, I head back to my hotel, shower and change and am out to host a Capita Symonds dinner at Comme Chez Soi, a restaurant frequented at past MIPIMs. Madam Sophie greets me as soon as I enter. You know she is in charge...I am told to go to my table and sit. I go straight to my table and sit (I didn't know that my mother and old school teacher, wrapped into one person, was here!). Martin Kelly, Capita Symonds’ Head of Land Planning is here already, sitting as told by Madam Sophie. Our guests arrive - a good mix of developers, contractors, and architects.

My phone rings (it's Elizabeth from Building Design - "can we meet up to discuss your latest work?"). I take the opportunity to invite her immediately onto our table. She obliges. I am primed and ready to promote Capita Symonds and our work....a fascinating conversation ends with deciding that the UK is the best country to live in and that many of our guests enjoy cycling (I had promoted Capita Symonds cycle networking week in Mallorca in June - a must for any cyclist whatever their ability)...the evening ends with everyone primed for their next appointment / meeting... I hadn't discussed Capita Symonds' architectural projects...doh!

My phone rings. I take the call outside. On returning everyone has left! It's 12.30am and I decide to go to the Carlton Hotel...but on the way I decide to call it a night. A bit of a lightweight I know… it's been a long day.

Mark Norris' Wednesday at MIPIM 2011

Discussion in the morning with a major UK commercial bank – sounds as though the dam holding back all those distressed property assets is beginning to burst.

We're sharing the London Pavilion stand with LB Ealing, GVA and Bouygues and discuss opportunities and challenges in regeneration. Will the lack (ie no appetite whatsoever) of property development lending lead to more innovative financial positions being taken by local authorities to make schemes work? I am sure we can help them!

Pat Kane from Ealing commented that they are not looking to spend money on consultants (the public sector cuts are clearly beginning to bite) but rather risk sharing, commercial property partners. Sounds like Capita Symonds!

Dinner at the Carlton with investment fund and international clients in the evening – a nice way to do business...not sure what happened to Mr Pryke!

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

MIPIM 2011 update: Tuesday

Updates from Andrew Pryke and Mark Norris Executive Director, Real Estate, Capita Symonds at MIPIM.

Up early today for a breakfast meeting - with three beautiful ladies that would outshine anything the Krasnodar, Russia Pavilion could offer (their words once they knew I was doing this blog) - from Bespoke recruitment agents. Interesting to know that people are looking at opportunities to move ship now there is more optimism!

Dashed to the London Pavilion to man the Capita Symonds stand. Much cursing as no one knows how to fire up our beautiful Apple Mac computer. Panic over, networking commences in anger. I am sure you are meant to network with new contacts. However, we are visited by fellow consultants and agents. We do get introduced to a number of interested parties from Construction News and Project News (hope I didn't say anything I shouldn't have done - no doubt will be in the press before I get back if I did!).

My stint over, I explore the London Pavilion. Many London boroughs are exhibiting plus large masterplans for Earls Court, Kings Cross, etc. Croydon appears not to have such a major presence this year (have they reached their apsired vision - I'll attempt to find out). All the great and good have turned out - Terry Farrell, Ken Shuttleworth and Boris Johnson. I bump into Peter Rees, chief Planner for the City of London Corporation. He is always friendly and welcoming (have known him since my Number 1 Poultry days in the early 90's). He is looking forward to an entertaining presentation with Peter Finch tomorrow. He asks to be heckled to make it more lively. - make a note in my busy schedule to attend and heckle as requested.

Running late for lunch with Cyril Sweett at the Miramar Beach Restaurant. Get there, join in drinks to find it's not the right party (mine is on Thursday not Tuesday!). They offer for me to stay. I politely apologise having had a good chat to Peter Folwell of Plowman Craven regarding cycling. I get the host's business card, Martin Edwards partner and lawyer from Martineau. They are working in Germany, Birmingham and London. Many German businessmen. My German is not good and so I move on.

4.15pm the Cycle to Cannes arrive into Cannes (I did this two years ago, a great experience for those who like a casual bike ride). I am told that they had sunshine all the way down with no mishaps....surely not! Boris Johnson leads the peloton on a Boris Bike! Capita Symonds’ own John Rudge completes the ride and gets his photo with Boris (Boris didn't do the whole ride...and in a suit and tie? No, he joined a couple of miles back…)

Boris completes his photo shoot and rushes into the London Pavilion for his 5.00pm not before a obligatory photo with our own Frank Devoy in front of the Capita Symonds Stand. He is always happy to please.
Off to the Leeds Stand, down in the 'Bunker' for cocktails and more networking quickly followed by a chance meeting with Ray McAuley, BD Director of Morgan Sindall at Cafe Roma.

It's a quick change at the Hotel and then out for the first Capita Symonds Dinner event at the L'Auberge in the Old Town. An oversubscribed table made up of developers, agents and hotel operators. The atmosphere is lively and the conversation focusses on the day's events. My guest, James Buckley of Estates Gazette, is getting concerned that he may not have enough news for his editorial deadline. A quick run around the table and we don't appear to be able to (or unwilling to reveal) give him any help. Hotel development and office refurb is a key topic and the way forward for 2011 (I am not really going to reveal any gossip or 'dish the dirt' am I?).

It's 11.30am and we all walk to the Carlton Hotel to catch the end of the MIPIM 2011 launch party. It's finished and we've missed it. A few vocal Spanish delegates are singing....Barcelona 3 - Arsenal 1...oh well.

Capita Symonds’ Jim Totton arrives fresh from the Irish delegates night at the Morrisons Bar. He says he has just got married on the beach? Apparently it's a tradition at this event for a couple (previously unattached and unknown to each other) to get married and all the delegates to be the wedding guests. I assume he has not really got married…

Time to call it a night...there are still two official days to go!

Mark Norris, Executive Director, Real Estate, Capita Symonds

Tuesday at MIPIM - Many familiar faces at the London Pavilion – Capita Symonds stand right next to the London cityscape model giving us a great profile. Amazing how many fantastic buildings are coming out of the ground across London – and we are involved (or will be) in quite a few of them.

Interviewed by EG TV who were looking for a Scottish Property Expert to comment on the market and development in Edinburgh. I am of course Scottish and do know a bit about property but probably know more about the London and International real estate markets at the moment than what’s happening back home! However a pre-interview briefing by Stuart Agnew in our Edinburgh office provided some great insight – and hopefully I got the message across! Oh and also got a word in about Edinburgh Council’s property services outsourcing – where we are down to the last two…

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

MIPIM 2011 update: Monday

Capita Symonds' Andrew Pryke reports back from MIPIM 2011

An early 5.30am start from home on Monday commences my 2011 MIPIM. A 30 minute journey to Luton Airport in sub zero temperatures - am greeted with a crowded terminal full of familiar faces. Amongst the five or six Capita Symonds co-MiPIMiers, the Aecom engineers are amongst the many queues.

A 1 hour 50 minute flight to Nice sees a change in temperature and a bright sunny day.

More queues for the bus to Cannes reminds me that people don't queue here and it's every man and woman for himself to attempt to get that precious double seat and space for themselves. I get a call from David Matthews from Building magazine, he is flying in tonight and would like to meet up. I will try and get him on the number of lunches and dinners Capita Symonds is hosting. Fingers crossed, we are already over subscribed!

However the journey is quick and painless.

A quick check in at my hotel, and change and out for lunch at a Beach Bistro with my Capita Symonds colleagues. There is much calm before the storm, with the Croisette virtually empty. The locals enjoying a day amongst one of two weeks in the year when an event is not happening in Cannes.

Walking to Cafe Roma, the much frequented cafe/ bar opposite the conference centre, is quiet. Not the place it will be from tomorrow onward.

Work is going on in the conference centre. This will go on through the night to prepare Cannes for its busiest week of the year. It is rumoured that more champagne is drunk (to secure deals!) at MIPIM than at any other time. I believe that this is the myth of better times long time gone.

Registration is painless and after dealing with e-mails the evening beckons.

Cafe Roma is the central meeting place for the number of Capita Symonds architects, structural engineers, services and agents to meet. MIPIM is very much a place for chance meetings. Exquisite collisions with key industry leaders that could never happen back in the UK. People are more relaxed at MIPIM and that person you have been trying to meet for months suddenly has time to talk.

Today is no exception for chance meetings. I bump into two architects from my Stirling Wilford days, whom I haven't seen for about ten years - Chris Dyson and Iain Clavedetcher. Both with their own practices and still surviving.

Dinner is with Capita Symonds. A small restaurant in the old town. As the restaurant begins to fill up, there is much anticipation this year. The commercial market appears to be optimistic. All delegates appear to be going through their rehearsals for the oncoming event. Like Olympic athletes, they are limbering up and going through their last minute routines before the race for that crucial deal, the win that will make their 2011 season.

Returning to the hotel I am grabbed by Richard Payne with his Turner and Townsend colleagues who accuses me of stalking them! Very rich as everywhere I have been they seem to follow later! They offer a drink and a review of their campaign.

Things are looking good for the forthcoming week...

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Capita Symonds at the 2010 Public Property Summit

Video coverage of Capita Symonds at the Public Property Summit at the Business Design Centre, London on 01-02 November...

Friday, 15 October 2010

commercial break

Capita Symonds’ Director of Business Transformation Neil McLocklin looks at how local authorities can learn from the commercial property sector…

Local authorities are used to cutting costs. That is just as well. The imminent Comprehensive Spending Review will ratchet up the pressure on them to do so even further.

But savings are not the whole answer. The government must put more pressure on the public sector to raise money too. This thinking is the lifeblood of the private property industry, but there is little pressure on the public sector to generate income.

It will be hard for the government to change, but change it must: the public sector is missing too many opportunities. These range from the obvious, such as ensuring vacant property is let, to the more innovative.

In August, environment secretary Chris Huhne gave local authorities the option to sell energy through feed-in tariffs. It was a good move, but this was just one possible area to address. The government should send a stronger message to the public sector that it is OK to be commercial.

Some forward-thinking local authorities, such as Lewisham and Southampton, have wisely taken minority stakes in their shopping centres, and will benefit from this income stream as it grows. But this is passive investment.

The diversity of assets within local authorities is immense, and this is part of the problem. Town halls and civic chambers are being rented out by some authorities for weddings and events, but the commercial promotion and marketing of these venues is often poor, so these fantastic assets are under-used.

Car parks and park-and-ride schemes may be operationally well managed, but there should also be kiosks to sell customers newspapers and coffee. Any good private sector property manager would be thinking along these lines.

Towns and cities attract events such as festivals, exhibitions and shows. But there is no proactive asset management that maximises revenue opportunities that surround these events. In the south, authorities should be considering the potential value for photo-voltaic cells on school roofs and landfill sites. Markets in streets and squares are often administered by local authorities, but in a passive way.
Of course, income generation has to be balanced with political and economic desires to stimulate the local economy – that and the all-too-common letter to the leader of the council from a local business, complaining about its audacity in increasing rent after five years.
We live in a new world. And politicians need to support their officers in taking a more commercial approach. If not, they miss opportunities to mitigate the pressure on public services.
Neil McLocklin is head of business transformation at Capita Symonds
Capita Symonds is a lead sponsor of Public Property Summit 2010.