Pickles praises council waste cutting
The best councils are "doing everything within their power" to ensure that public money is being spent in a cost-effective and efficient manner, the communities secretary has said.
Eric Pickles, speaking at the launch of the
'Leaner and Greener II: Putting buildings to work' report, highlighted the efforts of local authorities to ensure that public buildings were managed effectively.
Pickles, who spoke at the publication of the original report in February, stated that councils across the country were learning from one another how best to manage public estates.
He said: "There must be no sacred cows, no preconceptions, just a long, hard look at how property is utilised.
"Councils are beginning to learn from each other, to borrow ideas and to adapt. No-one is getting everything right already; no-one should rest on their laurels, but the expertise is here, the understanding is here."
And the MP for Brentwood and Ongar argued that by "cutting waste and redesigning services", the public sector could ensure that services were easier to navigate.
Pickles said: "Properly managed properties can bring about relief from an enormous burden. There should be no more taxpayers traipsing from one municipal building to the next to get the advice that they require."
Other speakers at the Westminster Sustainable Business Forum reception included Matthew Hancock MP, and Councillor Tony Samuels of Surrey County Council.
Hancock, the chair of the Leaner and Greener inquiry, outlined how, by more efficiently managing buildings, the public sector can raise the productivity of its workforce by £8bn a year.
He said: "We need to bring modernity and forward-thinking to the way that property is used across local authorities."
"When the first Leaner and Greener report was launched, many of the recommendations were viewed as highly provocative. We are already seeing the changes in perception as these ideas are increasingly being taken on board."
Councillor Samuels, cabinet member for assets and regeneration programmes at Surrey County Council, highlighted the work of the innovative Surrey First initiative in his home county.
He noted how, by moving from "rabbit-hutch" offices to open plan spaces, and by investing in IT to enable flexible working, local initiatives sought to "achieve greater integration of functions and the optimisation of services for our constituents".
And Samuels outlined ways in which he hoped the government's localism agenda would expand. He said: "Localism should mean empowering local people to do up their own environment with their own money.
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