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The Ministry of Defence has introduced positive changes to how it manages its estate and has invested substantial resources to maintain and improve it. The MoD, however, accepts that it has more work to do to provide a sustainable estate of the right quality, the National Audit Office has today reported to Parliament.

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The MoD is the second largest landowner in the UK and has a worldwide estate valued at some £18 billion. Considerable investment is being made through new prime contracts and PFI in both living and working accommodation. In recent years, the MoD has also made sensible moves to restructure how they manage their estate and is introducing effective planning systems to help manage it more effectively. The cost effectiveness of investment in the defence estate cannot be determined until the Department has completed its work to establish the baseline quality of the estate and to measure changes in performance and quality over time.

The MoD faces many, often conflicting demands on its resources and in the context of savings measures across the Department, Defence Estates, the organization responsible for delivering improvements in the quality of the estate, has had to find savings in 2006-07 of £13.5 million through cuts or deferrals in planned maintenance and repair. Despite these budgetary pressures, other parts of the MoD have injected an additional £45 million to carry out other estate work at short notice including fire safety systems, sports facilities and toilet and shower facilities.

The MoD is making investments in improving houses and barrack accommodation. Assuming no further deterioration in the existing stock of accommodation, by the end of 2012-13 the number of single bed spaces at the required standard will have risen to around 75,000. This will leave around 35,000 bed spaces below the required standard.

Currently 60 per cent of family homes in Great Britain are at the highest standard, leaving 19,000 to be upgraded. Defence Estates has exceeded its targets for upgrading houses and has funding to deliver 1,200 upgrades in 2006-07 and 900 each year thereafter.

The MoD has also done much to improve the sustainability of the estate and is well regarded for its delivery of environmental benefits, and especially for wildlife conservation. The MoD needs to do more to ensure that it is meeting the pan-governmental and internal targets it has signed up to. These include targets to reduce carbon emissions, to increase the proportion of its energy that comes from renewable sources, and to use timber from sustainable sources.

“The effectiveness of our armed forces depends fundamentally on the quality of their living and working accommodation.
The Ministry of Defence is working hard to improve the management of its estate and its current strategy, if pursued consistently, should build on recent progress and bring further dividends in future.”

Sir John Bourn, head of the NAO


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