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Independent review calls for new approaches to defence estate

In the wake of the Government’s decision to commit the Military Covenant to law, Morgan Sindall Group plc, the construction and regeneration group, has published an independent review of the UK’s defence estate by the Centre for Defence Studies at King’s College London.

The Harnessing Efficiencies, Rethinking Outcomes (HERO) Review proposes how the defence estate’s assets could be used to reduce future dependency on the taxpayer and managed to reduce costs and more effectively serve military personnel and their families.

Commissioned by Morgan Sindall Group, the HERO Review considers the future of the defence estate, identifies fresh approaches to the financing, use and disposal of the Ministry of Defence’s (MOD’s) significant assets, and examines the future of housing for service personnel.

In a response to the HERO Review’s findings, Morgan Sindall Group has called for:

A clear separation by the MOD of its core military operations and the associated support services, with management of the latter either being entrusted to the UK’s private sector or forming a new fourth ‘Support4Services’ branch of the MOD;
Greater cooperation between business and the MOD to develop the education and training of service personnel for civilian life on discharge from the armed forces – establishing a ‘new compact’ bringing together service people, government, the business community and academia to address current and future resource and skill shortages;
That the MOD promotes home ownership among service personnel by relinquishing provision of service family accommodation (SFA) in favour of a military property bond and universal military accommodation allowance or radically alters the way in which family accommodation is financed, provided and managed to reflect market conditions;
A rethink of the military’s approach to providing Single Living Accommodation (SLA) to harness private sector construction expertise – which could deliver a 20 per cent cost saving.
Speaking at the launch of the HERO Review’s findings, Paul Whitmore, commercial director of Morgan Sindall Group, said: “In commissioning the HERO Review we wanted to encourage fresh thinking, a wider debate and a collaborative approach to defining the future of the UK’s defence estate. For example, our experience of providing communal living accommodation suggests that savings of up to 20 per cent of the current cost of providing MOD single living accommodation could be obtained through innovation in techniques and materials.

“Now, with the transformation of the Defence Estates organisation into the Defence Infrastructure Organisation, it is not difficult to envisage a future where the organisation could either become a wholly private enterprise or one run on private sector principles.

“The construction industry and the armed services are close cousins – dealing as both do with extraordinary physical challenges, in all terrain and weather, using small highly skilled teams, and with safety as a paramount concern. We hope that the HERO Review and our response to it will provide a valuable contribution to the ongoing debate around the future of the defence estate.”

The launch of the Review findings included presentations by Paul Whitmore and Dr John Gearson, director of the Centre for Defence Studies, King’s College London, who discussed:

Closer integration of defence and civilian communities with joint investment in and shared benefit from new accommodation and associated facilities;
Using the post-Germany defence footprint with its annual £750 million expenditure to secure inward investment in partnership with local authorities;
Replacing PFI with new financing arrangements such as Local Asset Backed Vehicles, Local Improvement Finance Trusts and land swap schemes to generate new value from defence estate assets while disposing of surplus ones;
The desirability of an industry consultation on the Single Living Accommodation Modernisation (SLAM) Project, especially with the return of 20,000 British Army personnel from Germany, to generate efficiencies through innovation in planning, design and building techniques and materials;
A new and more imaginative approach to preparing service people for a career, through to re-settlement, in partnership with the private sector and taking greater account of aspirations for home ownership and stability for service people’s families.
Dr Gearson added: “The HERO Review – and Morgan Sindall Group’s response to it – are intended to be important steps forward in developing fresh approaches to how the defence estate is managed in an increasingly challenging economic climate.

“The effective operation and management of the huge assets held within the defence estate directly impacts on the retention, well-being and future prospects of many service personnel. As the activities of the defence estate become more commercially aware and flexible there will be associated positive benefits for those in our armed forces now and in the future.”

View the HERO Review and Morgan Sindall Group plc’s response below.