23 Mar 2017

MOD estate under fire

The management of the MOD estate has come under fire from the Public Accounts Committee in a new report.

A committee report highlights service families continuing to face uncertainty over accommodation and costs, and the maintenance of such a large estate (comprising 1.8% of UK land mass), as the challenges faced by the MOD.

The Committee has concluded that the Ministry of Defence must address many complex and interconnected decisions around the future of its estate, stating that: “there will be continuing risks to both military capability and value for money” until the Department resolves these challenges.

While the Committee acknowledges the Department’s new estate strategy is “a significant step forward”, it also concludes that there is much to be done to overcome decades of under-investment.

A Committee report last year found that service families were being badly let down over maintenance and upkeep, the new report has concluded that this has been improved, although it also notes that Service Families “are still unclear as to what service levels they can expect and continue to face uncertainty around the future provision of accommodation and its costs”.

With the estate strategy “dependent on reconciling different, and in some cases conflicting, pressures”, such as the need to achieve a Government target of £1Bn of disposal receipts before April 2021, release land for 55,000 homes by 2020, and delivering an estate which both meets military capability requirements and provides decent accommodation, the Committee has found that the Department’s model for managing the estate is still not fit for purpose, jeopardising the success of its long-term plans.

The MOD is currently reviewing the model and possible restructuring of Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) to operate more effectively, and the Committee notes that continued instability around estate management is bad for morale and retention in DIO.

Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the PAC, said: “Government has set challenging targets for the MoD to reshape its estate.

“The Department now has a strategy for tackling these but serious questions remain as to whether, in fact, that strategy is deliverable and the estate can be managed effectively in the years ahead.

“It is dismaying that there continues to be such instability in the Department’s estate management model and we will expect it to set out the findings of its current review as a matter of urgency.

“The Department intends the Defence Infrastructure Organisation to serve as an expert estate manager but it can only do so if fundamental weaknesses in its operation are addressed swiftly.

“Even if the Department hits its targets for disposing of land, the overall condition of the estate has been declining for years and it faces projected unfunded estate costs running to billions.

“Meeting these will be a significant ongoing challenge which poses risks both to defence capability and the quality of accommodation available to Forces personnel and their families.

“There are critical negotiations to come on accommodation and it is vital the Department communicates clearly with families about what they can expect and the likely implications of any changes behind the scenes.”

 

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