Tim Warneford speaks on the panel at the Smart Asset and Estates Conference run by GovNet

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Joining the prestigious line up of fellow panellists at last week’s Smart Asset and Estates Conference run by GovNet was a unique experience. It was very well run and featured the highest level of catering.

Formerly, I have exclusively presented, chaired or been part of a panel that solely focuses on the niche academy school sector, where we all pretty much know one another and will be addressing issues from slightly different angles, such as from a funding or sustainability perspective.

The Smart Asset and Estates Conference was different insofar as whilst it also looked at the usual pressures and challenges that we all face when managing our school estates, it’s focus was much wider angled, as it sought to extend to cover all government estates portfolios and thus included representatives from sectors such as Defence, Health and Local Authorities. What might we have in common and what is much more sector centric?

Joining the panel for a very open seminar on the disciplines of best practice approaches to estate and facilities management, it became clear that we each had both very similar challenges and equally very different idiosyncratic ones. This was also apparent from the diverse background of the audience and their post-presentation questions.

We all agreed that the collection, collation, and analysis of data such as compliance, condition and sufficiency was the bedrock, and that best practice was always to be link the future use of that data to the specific instruction and scope of the survey. That data without accurate costs was of frustratingly little value. How costed data is essential when qualifying and quantifying future capital programmes and as part of the business case that often needs board or trustee sign off. The competition for such a sign off, in these straitened times, was fierce and that, if possible, the proposition should also demonstrate life cycle and energy efficiency options appraisals too.

The one staggering statistic that became plainly clear was the fact that the school estate represents 50.1% of the entire government estate, employing 500,000 staff teaching 8 million pupils and yet is only funded to the tune of 15% of the £20 billion budget.

The NHS estate, whist it accounts for less than 20% of government estate portfolio, receives over 50% of the annual budget. The Defence estate equates to 20% of the estate and it also is a recipient of higher funding than schools.

Little wonder the school estate is circa £15 billion behind in backlog funding.