Richard Byatt discusses the impact of a new government on FM.
11 February 2010
The election has to be held by 3 June but is likely to be sooner, with 6 May a strong contender. Pressure groups and industry bodies are compiling their shopping lists and polishing their manifestos for a new government.
The Construction Industry Council (members include the BIFM) recently issued Building the Future Economy - Manifesto for the Built Environment. It sets out a ten point plan for the industry, in partnership with government.
Most of the points are as relevant for facilities management as for the wider construction sector but two are particularly important: Promote future job creation and skills development in the workforce by sustaining training and apprenticeships during the economic downturn; Secure 'value for money' by properly resourced maintenance programmes, quality design and construction and efficient procurement processes.
The BIFM has issued new position statements on two important issues - energy and skills. Among other proposals, the institute calls for government to promote 'user testing' at the design stage of new developments via the involvement of facilities managers on project teams; to encourage PFI project teams in the public sector to consult facilities managers about whole life-cycle issues for buildings; and to emphasise the importance of employer support for the professional development of employees.
No matter which party is returned to power, the consensus is that public spending will be severely constrained - in 2011/12 under Labour, possibly earlier if the Conservatives form the government. This will put more pressure on maintenance and support, even in areas such as health and education, where "frontline services" are to be protected.
The National Outsourcing Association has predicted a dramatic increase in UK public sector outsourcing, including maintenance and HR, in an attempt to cut costs and improve the budget deficit.
We may see a rush to further contracting, re-tendering and outsourcing across the public and private sectors. If this is done for the wrong reasons, namely pure cost reduction, we may also see a repeat of the mistakes of the early outsourcing 'boom' - awards to the lowest bidder or for the cheapest design and a loss of client knowledge as in-house skills are stripped out.
The trick will be to build on the advances of the past 30 years, so that the UK's public and business infrastructure is in good shape for the upturn.