Estates Services Hub – Best Practice Group, briefing paper – 22 November 2022

The latest meeting of the Estates Services Hub Best Practice Group was held this week, with a wide-ranging discussion covering some of the sector’s biggest challenges.

The group focused on how estates services teams were having to deal with cost and performance issues linked to inflation, the rent cap and recruitment problems, whilst also facing increased scrutiny and rising expectations on satisfaction ahead of regulatory reforms.

Key themes from the conversation included:

Insourcing vs outsourcing:

  • Most delegates reported challenges with grounds maintenance contracts – with some now weighing up bringing services inhouse.
  • While some hoped that this would offer better control and consistency of service, it was agreed that there were significant challenges around recruitment and upskilling that landlords were not able to deal with individually.
  • The group felt that inflation has led to several contracts they hold with suppliers becoming unviable, with contractors now delivering services at a loss. This was having an obvious impact on performance.
  • Landlords and councils said it was not feasible to carry on in the current situation, so would have to either renegotiate terms, go back to the market, or look at alternative ways of delivering services.
  • The group agreed that learning was needed around enforcing service standards early in the life of a contract so that both parties had clarity around expectations.
  • The group also discussed the benefits of looking to hyper-local contractors, rather than national suppliers, and that work was needed to help procurement teams understand that this was now a risk worth taking.
  • It was also agreed that bringing block cleaning inhouse would not be financially viable.

Fly-tipping and environmental services

  • All delegates reported that fly-tipping was on the increase.
  • With councils cutting back on bulky waste collections services – or charging a premium for this service – more residents were dumping household waste.
  • Often this was people from affluent neighbourhoods dumping goods on estates.
  • This was putting financial and resource pressure on estates teams.
  • Delegates said they were stepping up enforcement and were working in partnership with police forces and council teams to take action against perpetrators.
  • The group agreed that communications and profile-raising work was needed to help local decision markers understand the scale of the issue, with a proactive focus on prevention.
  • Delegates also felt that giving residents more ownership of land within the community would be key to instilling more civic pride, which would encourage more people to call out the problem.

If there are any issues you’d like to see discussed as part of the Estates Service Hub please contact Bobbie Hough on [email protected]

The next meeting of the Best Practice Group will be held on 20th April 2023. You can sign up here.