Plan for State property portfolio launched

New online register of public buildings to be established by end of March 2014

Minister of State Brian Hayes, who today launched a new plan to manage all State properties. Photo: Dara Mac Donaill/The Irish Times

Minister of State Brian Hayes, who today launched a new plan to manage all State properties. Photo: Dara Mac Donaill/The Irish Times

Tue, Jul 30, 2013, 14:05

The Government today launched an initiative to reduce costs and improve efficiencies in the State’s property portfolio.

Produced by the steering group on property asset management and headed by the chairperson of the Office of Public Works (OPW), the Property Asset Management Delivery Plan aims to get the best value for money from the State’s property assets.

Speaking at the launch Minister of State for Public Sector Reform and the OPW, Brian Hayes, said that the new plan would deliver “significant savings and efficiencies over the course of the next few years”.

“About 4 years ago the average cost of renting buildings in the Public sector was about €131 million,” Minister Hayes said.

“This year...[it’s] now down to €108 million and by next year we will have that figure under €100 million”.

He added that the Government had exited some 150 leases and surrendered about half a million square feet of office space during this period.

OPW chairperson, Clare McGrath, also confirmed that the State currently held no leases for unused office space or buildings.

“We are leading a very strong campaign to get out of leases, to make sure that we have break clauses and we operate those breaks and to make sure that the savings are real for all to see,” Minister Hayes said.

However, he also added that the extent of the savings produced by the new plan would not become apparent until it was implemented.

“It’s impossible to put a figure on it and I’m not going to do that just for the purposes of this launch,” he said.

Minister Hayes said some 40 Garda stations will be put for sale over the next two months while “5 or 6 stations will be handed over to other Public Sector users”.

He also said more State owned properties could be sold and that the Government may engage with private sector members to create funding partnerships, such as sale and lease back agreements.

“We don’t have a huge amount of money obviously because of the financial circumstances,” he said. “So we’ve got to be creative”.

Public consultations with “key private sector stakeholders” are expected to be held in Autumn of this year.

A new online property register for public buildings will be established by the end of March in 2014.

The Minister said that that the new web-based portal will bring together core information about State lands and buildings so that the public can see “for the first time what we own [and] where we own it”.

“That’s going to be a huge resource for the public sector as we work out building plans for the future,” he said.

Also, for the first time, all secretary generals and all public agencies will now be held accountable for the use of office accommodation within their own area.

New “space norms and office requirements” for state bodies will also be established by the steering group.

“We need to get out of the silo mentality, we need to introduce open plan office accommodation within the Public Sector,” he said. “We also need the best standard of office accommodation”.

As part of the plan management and storage of public records will also switch from paper to electronic format and new protocols for the transfer of surplus to requirement buildings will also be implemented.

“That’s important when we’re trying to transfer ownership of title...and....ownership of building and lands across the Public Sector,” he said.