One Public Estate (OPE) is a national initiative managed by central Government to enable public sector organisations to 'rationalise their asset and estates management'. In other words, local authorities were able to bid for project funding to facilitate the sharing of buildings and services with other public sector organisations.
Why we need to do this
In 2014, an Audit Commission Report estimated councils spent around 4% of all revenue on premises-related expenditure (running costs, repairing buildings and so on). And the Government is reducing the annual funding it provides to local authorities - by 2020 there will be no money provided to local authorities to support their day-to-day services. Therefore, as part of our County Plan, we are using the OPE programme as one of the ways to save money for Somerset residents by reducing running costs and sharing services. This initiative also gives us the opportunity to generate additional capital receipts (one-off income) by selling off unneeded property.
The One Public Estate (OPE) Programme in Somerset started with £177,500 of funding from the national programme in October 2016 after a successful bid by the Somerset OPE Partnership - made up of all of Somerset’s councils, police, fire and health services. Winning this bid enabled us to look at the feasibility of running projects in Somerset, building on the success of our earlier Customer Access and Shared Assets (CASA) Programme, which aimed to create shared customer access hubs across the county.
The Glastonbury Library Hub opened in July 2016, delivering savings of £30,000 on annual running costs, with feedback showing very high levels of customer satisfaction.
While SCC is the lead authority for the OPE programme in Somerset, individual projects are defined by the relevant public sector partners, which include
- Mendip, Sedgemoor, South Somerset and West Somerset District Councils, and Taunton Deane Borough Council
- Avon and Somerset Police
- Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service
- Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG)
- Somerset Partnership NHS Trust
- South Western Ambulance Service
- Department for Work and Pensions (Job Centre Plus)
The business planning and project activities completed so far have estimated Somerset will benefit by potential savings of £12.6m on running costs across the partnership organisations, as well as improved access to services for Somerset residents.
OPE Projects in 2017
In the One Public Estate Programme in Somerset, we are looking at six towns where projects are either being considered (at feasibility stage) or have their business cases at the review stage (see our 'Your OPE questions answered' document for descriptions of the full OPE Partnership Business Case Approach.
- Shepton Mallet
As you might imagine, projects that have different partner groups, aims and objectives, and starting points, will have different milestones and timescales. At the feasibility stage, a key element of the decision-making process involves an Impact Assessment completed for every potential option in a project. This ensures any potential project outcomes that might impact the local community (especially anyone protected by equality legislation) are identified and actions put in place to reduce or remove any or all negative impacts.
To find out more about OPE projects local to you, please check out ourYour OPE questions answered document, which includes a glossary of all the terminology referred to in the OPE Programme descriptions. Or, look out for updates through Your Somerset, or contact any of the OPE Somerset Team directly.
OPE Project and Change Officers