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18 January 2019
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Economies of scale

5 May 2015

All things being equal, you’ll be receiving the next edition of FM World on or around polling day.

By which point, dare I suggest, you’ll just be grateful for the sweet mercy of an end to the constant campaigning. However, we’re going to feel the aftermath of this particular election well past the morning of Friday 8th May – assuming the polls end up consistent to the reality.

There are two reasons for thinking that our political future will remain far from settled as the month of May 2015 moves on. Firstly, the composition of the next government is likely to take a while as our politicians set new world records by reneging within days on their promises never to work with each other. Secondly, the cuts to public services we’ll be seeing between 2015 and 2020 are going to happen no matter what, putting huge pressure on whichever combination of parties ends up sitting to the Speaker’s right. By all accounts, if you’re in the public sector and you thought 2010 to 2015 was austerity at its worst, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

Fortunately, some of the local authorities that will be in the forefront of experiencing new levels of public wrath have already taken significant steps to wrest control of their FM costs. Whether combining services between authorities is strictly a form of service innovation is for others to decide. ‘Economies of scale’? Perhaps not. Management of service providers? Maybe. But the upshot is facilities services provision that spans far greater boundaries under slick new management models designed and brought up to speed by consultants and outsourced providers.

Initiatives such as the Tri-borough agreement between Hammersmith & Fulham Council, Westminster City Council and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea needed extensive buy-in from inspired council management before the joint project got off the ground. And you’ll read elsewhere in this issue about how FM for the Tri-borough project was a ‘transformation catalyst’. I’m not apologising for the amount of space we’ve given over to this deal in recent months because we’re bound to see much more of this kind of thing in the years ahead. Our interest in the mechanics of this particular deal is because of the likely impact it will have in the near future.

But there’s something else in the development of these cross-boundary deals. In the course of this next parliamentary term (assuming it’s a full five-years), we’re likely to see local authority FM contracts becoming ever-larger deals won by those capable of servicing them – the largest of FM service providers. And while big can be beautiful, the challenge will be for larger service providers to do the difficult thing of (contentious statement alert) innovating service while simultaneously trying to keep costs down on a service spread across a wide geographical area.

Who knows what state of unity will exist come the morning of 8th May. But in any event, there exists in local authority FM the chance to do things differently and for these new ways of working to spread throughout the UK. 

Martin Read is managing editor at FM World