As the UK is faced with a new political landscape the future looks uncertain. But for FM many challenges lie ahead, explains the BIFM's corporate and public affairs director Richard Byatt.
20 May 2010
One of the drawbacks of traditional print media is the lag between writing and publication. I am writing this on
30 April but you will be reading it sometime after 18 May. The general election was almost two weeks ago and we are all navigating a new political landscape.
Given the volatile pre-election atmosphere I will not try to predict what has now taken place, but whatever the colour and composition of the new Government, it is clear that policy debate will be dominated by one issue – the need to repair public finances.
Just to recap, the deficit is around 60 per cent of GDP. Before the election the Institute for Fiscal Studies said that, by 2014-15, cuts of between £47bn and £64bn a year would be needed, depending on which party’s tax and spending programme was adopted.
To put this in perspective, total public spending in 2008/9 was almost £621bn. £64bn is over 10 per cent of that, about the same as the entire budget for the Department for Children, Schools and Families or a little more than the state pensions bill.
The need to reduce public spending will affect most businesses and other organisations, directly or indirectly and FM will take its share of the pain as capital programmes are cut back and managers are asked to do even more with less.
We have seen almost unprecedented investment in public facilities, largely through PFI. These new schools, prisons and hospitals may have some breathing space before major maintenance or renewal of fabric and systems is required but we could be storing up trouble as maintenance cycles are extended and we move back to a reactive regime.
However, there could be other longer-term consequences of the election campaign. Parsimony may be joined by three other Ps: Probity – visible and beyond compliance; Participation – greater involvement of people in decisions that affect them; and Plurality – competing ideas will have to fight it out.
As the country pulls itself out of recession and pays down its debt, we will need to manage facilities and resources even more efficiently. In an age of austerity there will be casualties certainly but also great opportunities.