Cheshire West and Chester Council - The MJ Awards

Cheshire West and Chester Council - The MJ Awards

Cheshire West & Chester Council

The MJ Awards 2012

Most Transformed

Property Portfolio


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St Helens









Ellesmere Port












MJ Awards 2012 I 03

Most transformed

property portfolio

Setting The Scene

Cheshire West and Chester has a population of 327,300 and covers 350 square

miles. It is bounded by Cheshire East, Shropshire, Wales, the Wirral and the Mersey.

It was created in 2009 from three district authorities and half of the county council.

We have merged best practice and created a new vision for the portfolio. This is

based on three key principles;

• Customer first

• Best practice

• Value for money

The vision is about more than joining up the portfolios; it is to use property as a

platform for fundamental organisational, cultural and civic change driving out the

barriers of silo working and bureaucracy.

Our initial Asset Management Plan was rewritten in 2011 to incorporate early

achievements and plan for 2011-16.

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How we started

We inherited extensive property interests with an asset value of £685m (2009). We

needed to verify existing data and transfer robust records onto one management system.

We used a verification exercise, Asset Challenge, to challenge the operational case for

retaining each property.

We set up a structure to drive asset management which included a Member Champion,

Member working group and an officer Asset Management Group ensuring a corporate

approach across the asset base. We also set up a Stakeholder Asset Management Group.

We produced a Workplace Strategy setting out the vision for new ways of working to

embed a new culture across the authority.

We worked with stakeholders to create an opportunity to sell County Hall, which was no

longer fit for our purpose, to Chester University. This enabled us to buy new offices which

regenerated part of the City and pushed cultural change across the organisation. The

University bought an iconic building, centrally located, to help drive their expansion plans

for the knowledge economy.

The Leader of the Council set a disposal target of £200m over 10 years and this, together

with Asset Challenge, were fundamental drivers for the Asset Management Plan.

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What we have achieved

Workplace Strategy

Asset Challenge base lined information about use and condition of operational

assets and identified 23 buildings used for corporate offices, 17 were not fit for


The Workplace Strategy was implemented to provide modern, fit for purpose offices,

drive cultural change, reduce costs and reduce our carbon footprint. It required

significant investment in ICT and a cultural change to embrace agile working.

Initially implemented in office hubs, it has been rolled out across other offices and

depots and will be used to drive change in other operational buildings.

The strategy has delivered

The removal of all private offices; management team and Executive Members all

work flexibly in open plan space.

• A reduction in corporate offices from 23 creating 4 core and 5 secondary offices,

including modern, fit for purpose, culture changing headquarters in Chester.

• A reduction in corporate office space of 41% with further reductions identified.

• In 2009 occupancy was 12m2 per person, the target was 9m2. Through moves

and innovative redesigns we have achieved 8. 7m2 and the target for 2016 is 8m2.

• fte workstation: the ratio target is 0.7. Great strides have been made towards this

and it has been exceeded in the new rural hub in Tarvin.

• Hot desking is now part of the organisational culture with touchdown spaces and

bookable meeting rooms widely available across the corporate estate.

• Multi functional print devices have replaced desk top printers and photo copiers,

saving space and cost.

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What we have achieved


We have used the Workplace Strategy and the opportunities provided by combining

budgets to drive cultural change across the organisation. This has affected how we

work, and more importantly, how we deliver services. We are co-locating services

to improve the customer experience and reduce carbon footprint.

Robust property data and pro-active asset management have been key drivers of

service reviews and have challenged service delivery models.

• We have created a rural office hub for mobile workers co-located with a library,

children’s centre and community centre in a key rural location increasing

sustainability and efficiency. This has also released two sites for redevelopment.

The Libraries review used property data to identify over provision in Chester and

poor DDA access elsewhere. The DDA access has been improved and provision in

Chester adapted by co-locating services and releasing valuable sites for


• We used property data to identify poorly performing buildings for bibliographic

services. The service consolidated in one property in the commercial portfolio

from 3 locations across the borough. Travelling is reduced and efficiency

increased. Surplus sites will be sold.

• Targeted, small investments have allowed Customer Services and Libraries to

work together to co-locate customer service points in the space created in

libraries by the introduction of self service.

• We have reviewed depot provision alongside the new Highways Maintenance

and Waste Management contracts creating improved depot offices with hot

desks to increase contact between Council and contractor and delivering two

surplus sites for development.

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What we have achieved

Community, Partners and Stakeholders

By working with our stakeholders and partners we are rethinking the whole public

portfolio, providing joined up services and reducing costs. Our stakeholder asset

management group has exchanged property data enabling assets to be mapped and

opportunities for co-location identified. Those which further corporate aims will be

pursued. Using the driver of ‘Customer First’ we have co-located services with central

government, partners such as housing providers and third sector organisations such as

credit unions to provide a single point of contact.

• We have delivered a multi cultural centre with third sector organisations using targeted

grants to bring vacant offices back to life.

• We have worked with the PCT, police and Third Sector Assembly to co-locate in Chester

providing a single point of contact for health, social care and advice services

significantly improving the contact between us and service to clients. This will

regenerate the area, save money and reduce travelling.

• Creative use of school capital expenditure will deliver necessary accommodation for a

growing primary school in a complex of underused, town centre buildings. The

relocation of a Church from another part of the Borough into the complex has been the

catalyst for the transformation of youth services, services to the wider community,

improved vacant buildings and released a valuable site for residential redevelopment

in line with corporate priorities.

• Investment in our customer contact points has enabled co-location of credit unions,

housing providers, advice centres and even HMRC in our major towns. In a key rural

location we have merged service provision with the Town Council and located in a new

medical centre.

• We have established a Community Interest Company to run Council owned leisure

centres which will produce cost savings, increase investment in tired facilities and

involve communities in development and management of the facilities.

• We have created a community based asset management company to deliver improved

outcomes in line with community priorities in a significant deprived neighbourhood.

This will generate £16m of investment by 2016.

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What we have achieved

Carbon reduction

Our culture change, implementation of the Workplace Strategy and targeted building

maintenance expenditure were all designed to reduce our carbon footprint and

compliment specific measures we have put in place. Our annual £5m ICT investment will

continue to deliver savings as agile working increases.

• We have implemented a Carbon Management Plan which has delivered savings of

£1.03m p.a. and achieved a carbon reduction of 5,987 tonnes

The number of buildings with Display Energy Certificates (DECs) in categories A – D

has increased from 59% in 2009/10 to 76% in 2010/11.

• We have implemented a Buildings Sustainability Policy to set the standard for all new

development. It aims to achieve a BREEAM rating: of ‘Very Good’ or ‘Excellent’.

Green Travel Plan

This is about more than reducing staff parking. It is a cultural shift to travelling

differently, travelling less and using buildings and ICT more intelligently.The

occupation of HQ required the implementation of a Green Travel Plan and the

principles of the plan have been delivered across the portfolio and incorporated

into staff terms and conditions. Hot desks, touchdown spaces and video

conferencing across the corporate estate reduce the need for business travel and


The rate paid for use of private cars for business mileage has reduced from £0.65 to

£0.45 reducing the ‘incentive’ to travel.

Parking permits are allocated on the basis of business need, car sharing and use of

public transport are encouraged. The health benefits of walking and cycling are

promoted and supported by the installation of showers in the office hubs.

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What we have achieved


Facilities Management

• In 2009 there were 134 professional staff across property, FM and construction. A

service review reduced this to 91, saving £1.4m p.a.

• Business support has been centralised reducing costs. Resources are provided in

hubs and satellite offices enabling efficient agile working.

• In 2009 white mail cost over £900,000p.a., A service review reduced the number

of franking machines from 1000 to 8 and a new contract has saved £150,000 pa.

The multi functional printing programme reduced devices by 389 saving

£250,000 p.a.

• Building running costs have been reduced by £2.6m pa.

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What we have achieved

Budgets for Buildings

The Council’s 10 year capital programme is underpinned by ambitious capital receipts

targets. In an austere financial climate the Council remains committed to a positive capital

programme with four key strands-: ICT; highways, property management and visionary

plans for culture and leisure.

Since2009/10 we achieved capital receipts of £21m and are planning to raise a further

£40m over the next 3 years..

We have committed to spend £6.7m p.a. for 3 years on planned maintenance for

operational buildings including schools. It will be targeted to increase the number of

properties in repair categories A and B to 90%.

In 2009 all maintenance budgets and other premises capital costs were combined in a

single Property Management budget and reduced by 10%. A significant improvement in

building data has enabled targeted expenditure to reduce backlog maintenance and

increase the numbers of ‘fit for purpose’ buildings. Linking this with the schools Capital

Maintenance Grant has significantly increased the effectiveness of the combined budgets

and enabled investment in more imaginative schemes.

Schemes have included reroofing and re-fenestration, boiler replacement, improved

disabled access, installation of photovoltaic cells on roofs and workplace strategy inspired

office redesigns.

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What we have achieved

• This targeted approach has increased the number of buildings in the fit for purpose

category from 39% to 53% and the number in repair categories A and B from 78% to 85%.

• Backlog maintenance has reduced from £48m to £34.5m. The target for 2016 is £30m,

a reduction of 38%.

• In 2010/11 84% of the available budget was planned maintenance expenditure; this will

increase to 86% in 2011/12, the target for 2016 is 90%.

Fit for purpose

Year % of properties

09/10 39

10/11 47

11/12 53

15/16 75


Year % of properties

09/10 59

10/11 74

11/12 76

15/16 83

Backlog maintenance

Year £m

09/10 48

10/11 39

11/12 34.5

15/16 30

Building Statistics


Fit for prupose



Backlog Maintenance Total






09/10 10/11 11/12 15/16




09/10 10/11 11/12 15/16



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What next

We will continue to implement the Workplace Strategy adding refinements through

experience, use assets to deliver corporate objectives such as extra affordable

housing and continue to reduce backlog maintenance.

We are one of four national pilots delivering community budgets and the only one

focussing on using the public estate to deliver better services and reduce costs.

In three years we have transformed our portfolio and the culture of the

organisation, reduced our office footprint and targeted investment to generate

significant savings within our own resources. We have good relationships with our

stakeholders and communities and have improved our environment. We have

started to implement our vision for our portfolio, recognising that this vision, like

the portfolio, will be dynamic.

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