Public sector asset management: a Q&A


With Karen Lister, Head of Estates and Strategy, Oxfordshire County Council

Public asset management is a system to plan, manage, use and, ultimately, dispose of assets owned by local authorities. These assets usually take the form of buildings such as schools and public offices, but can also include infrastructure like water treatment plants and roads. It is estimated that the value of publicly owned property in the UK is somewhere in the region of £700m, so there is good reason why this needs to be managed carefully and strategically, and in the public's best interests. The resilience of public sector organisations and the continued delivery of efficient public services are wholly dependent on good management.

Publicly-owned property and infrastructure needs to be viewed through a long-term lens and with flexibility a key consideration from the start, as the function and occupants of public assets are very likely to change over the course of its lifetime. Following years of budget cuts and austerity, key skills and experience in managing public assets have unfortunately been lost in most public authorities. It is therefore vital that property professionals have access to learning and development to support their own organisations and to enhance their skills in asset management.

In response to this need, CIPFA Property and ACES (the Association of Chief Estates Surveyors and Property Managers in the Public Sector) have developed the Diploma in Public Sector Asset Management, comprised of seven modules which cover the key areas of public sector asset management. Students can increase their professional knowledge and expertise in this area with an accredited course delivered by expert trainers in the field of public sector asset management.

The diploma is a unique qualification which started in the autumn of 2020. Whilst the full diploma can only be achieved by taking all seven modules, they can also be taken individually to help fill knowledge gaps of that specific student. Studying the full diploma will give you the complete skillset and expertise to embark on a career in public sector asset management, with the modules covering all key aspects of successful management. The course places an emphasis on the need to think and act strategically in a corporate context, with a long term view of asset management.

It is an ideal qualification for new starters entering public sector property management or property professionals entering the public sector for the first time. Staff in other areas who find their roles have many overlaps and links with property management also find it extremely useful.

CIPFA deliver the course in partnership with ACES, bringing real insight into the issues facing those working with public sector assets. The following first appeared in the Terrier, the newsletter for ACES. It is an interview with ACES Member Karen Lister, Head of Estates and Strategy at Oxfordshire City county council, who studied the diploma and gives her views on the course to Malcolm Williams of ACES, the course coordinator.

Malcolm: Karen, thank you for taking the time out to chat with me regarding your participation in the role out of the first iteration of ACES/CIPFA Diploma in Strategic Asset Management in the Public Sector.

Karen: Happy to give my considered feedback on the course.

M: How did you become aware of the course?

K: I picked it up for the advertising flyers put out by both ACES and CIPFA.

M: Did you find that the advertising material gave you a realistic overview on what the course's seven modules were trying to impart to attendees on the course?

K: Yes, very much so, and I decided to take all seven modules.

M: Why was that?

K: I am part of an outsourced operation at Oxfordshire CC and, although I was familiar with the proposed content of some of the modules as they affected my day-to-day dealings with my client, I felt that an overview and better understanding of all seven modules would be beneficial to me and my organization going forward.

M: The course had to be delivered virtually because of COVID-19 restrictions. How do you think the ACES and CIPFA presenters — together with the attendees — coped?

K: I can only comment for myself, but I found the presenters were friendly efficient and knowledgeable and the format worked. I especially liked the sessions with considerable group interaction.

M: Are there any suggestions/observations you would like to make to me?

K: Personally I would like opportunities to network more with colleagues who took the course and think contact details for each cohort should be readily available. Also the CPD hours come in a glut especially when you have to complete your dissertation to achieve your diploma. It would be beneficial if you could spread some of the hours over two CPD accounting periods.

M: Good point. ACES will use our contacts with the RICS to see if there is the possibility of spreading accumulated CPD hours over two accounting periods. On reflection, do you think the diploma offered good value for money and strengthened your working knowledge base going forward?

K: The course was good value for money and Oxfordshire CC will be sending appropriate officers (service managers) on later iterations of the course.

M: Karen, thank you for taking the time out from your busy diary to find the time to talk to me which is much appreciated. We will try to incorporate your suggestions into future iterations of the course.

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