1 Strategy and Implementation |
1. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office's (the
Department's) previous estate strategy provided a high level description
of the estate's strategic aims but lacked detail on its estate
requirements, whether the estate met these requirements, and how
any gaps would be addressed.
The Department said it was in the final stages of agreeing a new
estate strategy which would provide a fuller explanation of the
estate it aspires to run and the principles it will operate in
2. The Department conceded that resource constraints
meant it was not able to implement the strategy as fast and as
comprehensively as it would like, although it was able to do essential
work to refurbish out-of-date embassies and replace those which
are not secure. The
Department was also tackling a backlog of maintenance, security
and health and safety works caused partly by budget pressures
in recent years. The
Department agreed that it was unacceptable that 40% of the estate
no longer complied with legal and Foreign and Commonwealth Office
(FCO) standards, and was putting extra money into the budget in
both 2009-10 and 2010-11 for health and safety works.
3. The Department's new Estates Director is a
qualified chartered surveyor and expert on estates management.
The Estates Director will be responsible for implementing the
new strategy. The Department was confident he would have the authority
required to drive through the necessary changes throughout the
Department's global estate, and that there was also an appetite
for progress amongst staff overseas who would be responsible for
implementing the strategy on the ground.
4. The diverse nature of the Department's estate
means that its overseas staff, few of whom are estates professionals,
must be capable of implementing the strategy in all of the Department's
locations around the world. They must be capable of producing
data, managing projects and preventing overspends.
To help overseas staff implement the strategy successfully, the
Department said it planned to set up a regional network of estates
professionals. This network would give ambassadors in Africa,
Asia and the Americas access to estates expertise, and would also
enable the Department to ensure that staff overseas are complying
with their responsibilities.
5. Decisions about whether to invest in, or dispose
of, properties are taken centrally by the Department in London.
Staff overseas are empowered to take day-to-day decisions on how
they run the estate on the ground.
The Department recognised that it had not necessarily got the
balance right in the past between central direction and local
level empowerment, and hoped to provide a clearer framework through
its new strategy. For example, it planned to have a professional
project sponsor for its major projects, but for embassies to manage
smaller projects themselves.
2 C&AG's Report, para 5 Back
Q 2 Back
Q 4 Back
Qq 4 and 108 Back
Q 108 Back
Qq 1 and 29-30 Back
Qq 7 and 8 Back
Qq 35-37 Back
Q 37 Back
Qq 38 and 40 Back
Qq 46 and 47 Back