Our work in this sector, which covers both public and private sector housing, property and construction and estate management, is wide-ranging in scope, and includes detailed analyses of individual departments' estate management and cross-government reviews.
It also covers the work of the Department of Communities and Local Government to make housing more affordable and to deliver more homes, along with studies that we have undertaken with private sector home builders and the construction industry.
In response to questions raised by the House of Commons Health Committee in late 2013 and wider Parliamentary interest, we conducted an investigation into five specific concerns about NHS Property Services. Our investigation established the facts relating to these concerns.
Performance Improvement area(s): Investigations
The Programme launch has been successful, however key risks remain such as the planned delivery of new homes towards the end of the programme period.
Sector(s): Housing, property and construction
“The FCO can do more to get value for money from its overseas estate. Although the Department has begun to remedy some of the shortcomings we identified and has started work on its strategy for managing the estate, it still needs to get the basics right. It needs to lay out the priorities for its overseas estate and work out how to get more robust information. Whilst there are examples of good practice at individual posts, the Department needs to spread this across the whole estate if it is to make real efficiencies.”
“The Programme to make social sector housing and private sector housing for vulnerable people decent has made progress, and the families living in those properties will be enjoying the benefits. However, there are risks to both the Programme’s completion and what has been achieved so far if a reliable funding mechanism is not put in place to deliver the remainder of the Programme and to maintain homes to a decent standard. Hundreds of thousands of families are still living in properties which are not warm, weather tight, or in a reasonable state of repair. The Department’s efforts have been undermined by weaknesses in the information it holds.
There are important lessons here on the benefits of having clear information on Programmes when delivery is devolved to a local level.”
“This major contract has been significantly affected, for the contractor Mapeley in particular, by the current economic climate. Mapeley benefited when the property market was expanding but the economic downturn has made the contract more onerous. HMRC must take a significantly more astute commercial approach if it is to deliver value for money for the taxpayer.”
“NOMS is maintaining the prison estate well and is obtaining value for money in how it does so. But there are areas to improve: the Agency needs a better understanding of the costs of planned works; it should standardise more spare parts and materials; and understand better the right time to switch from maintaining an old asset to buying new. Once these measures are in place it will help the Agency plan maintenance work, and control finances, more effectively.”
“Building Schools for the Future is a highly ambitious £55 billion programme. Converting that ambition to reality requires robust planning, close cost control and making a success of complex long-term partnerships. Partnerships for Schools and the Department were too optimistic in their early plans though programme management has since improved. But it remains a real challenge, in difficult market conditions, to deliver the 250 schools a year that will be needed, to include all schools by 2020 as currently planned.”
“The Department has given local authorities a greater financial incentive to reach quicker decisions on planning applications, with more decisions on major housing schemes now being taken within 13 weeks than five years ago. Whether the speed of development has increased is less clear. The Department should use the data collected by the National Audit Office as a benchmark for assessing its future effectiveness in improving the planning process.”
Notes for Editors
1. As part of the NAO’s examination, it reviewed the case history of 100 major residential applications (i.e. developments of 10 or more homes) approved in 2006-07 by 11 Authorities, providing for the first time reliable data on how long the whole process takes.
“Government departments have a challenging time ahead in addressing the efficiency of their office accommodation. There are positive signs of departments beginning to engage with the issue, but there is still a vast amount of change required. Government is still a long way from achieving full value from its office estate.”
“Housing market renewal is a radical programme but it is a high risk approach. While there have been physical improvements in some neighbourhoods, it is unclear whether intervention itself has led to improvement in the problems of low demand. And in some cases intervention has exacerbated problems in the short-term.
“The Department for Communities and Local Government needs to make sure that pathfinders not only delivers its regional development plans, but also complements the broader regeneration of areas contributing to better schools and transport links.”