Interview: Ricky McSeveney from the Ministry of Justice

Mon 4th November 2013, 12:22 pm

The Sitematch team catches up with Ricky McSeveney, interim head of property asset management at the Ministry of Justice (MoJ).

Ricky McSeveney from the Ministry of Justice

Can you tell us about your role and responsibilities? 

The MoJ estate is one of the largest in the government comprising over 1,500 property holdings with a total area of almost six million square metres. I lead a unit of 230 people spread across England and Wales. My role covers three key areas that contribute towards the objective of creating an effective and efficient estate which provides value for money for the tax payer, reduces our environmental impact, transforms the way we work and contributes to the growth agenda. The three areas are:

- Service delivery:  the MoJ has multiple customers and irrespective of the type of building, a key challenge of the role is ensuring that the standard of delivery provided through our facilities management contracts meets the needs of the customer and underpins effective business delivery.

- Information:  the ability to make effective decisions and respond to business needs is built on the quality of information. A key part of my role is to ensure there is comprehensive and up to date knowledge of the MoJ estate, including cost, condition, utilisation, operational importance and value, to support a wide range of internal and external stakeholders who make decisions that improve the service we provide as a department.

- Maximise asset value: through disposal of freeholds or taking advantage of leasehold opportunities ensure that we achieve the best value from our extensive estate. 

Can you talk about some previous roles, and how they led to your current position? 

I have been a civil servant for just over 10 years and joined what is now the Ministry of Justice in 2005 (I previously worked for HMRC).  During my time with MoJ, I've always worked within the estates arm of the department and performed a number of different roles including finance, service improvement and asset management.  Prior to taking up my current post in July, I was regional asset manager for London and was responsible for a portfolio of properties including some of MoJ's most high profile buildings – including our HQ (102 Petty France), the Royal Courts of Justice and the Old Bailey.

Does the MoJ have specific targets it needs to hit in terms of the disposal of surplus land? 

We do, of course, have targets but from my perspective, our responsibility for one of the largest estates across government means that achieving best value for the taxpayer underpins everything we do. 

What future MoJ opportunities should developers look out for?  

Our commitment to providing an effective, efficient, sustainable estate, which meets business and operational requirements, means we continually challenge ourselves to improve how we deliver our services to provide best value for the taxpayer. That commitment allows us to shape our property portfolio to reflect business need and in recent years, this has seen a reduction in the size of our estate. In terms of future opportunities, we announced earlier this year the closure of seven prisons: Bullwood Hall, Canterbury, Gloucester, Kingston-Portsmouth, Shrewsbury and Camp Hill on the Isle of Wight. The formal marketing process for these sites will commence in the next few months. We will provide further details at the Sitematch event as well as information on any other future opportunities.

MoJ has brought Telfer House in Islington to market as a package with the Metropolitan Police-owned Highgate police station. What is the background to this co-operation with the Met – and is it something MoJ might pursue in the future, potentially with other public sector organisations? 

While MoJ has traditionally disposed of assets on a standalone basis, we recognise there is obvious benefit in working together with other public sector organisations. Earlier this year we brought two assets (Haringey Magistrates Court and Telfer House – a probation property) to the market in conjunction with the Met Police who were seeking to dispose of Highgate police station. This joined-up approach is something we firmly believe is the way forward and by attending Sitematch, we hope will provide further opportunities for further closer working across the public sector.

Why is the MoJ attending Sitematch? 

We have a strong track record in asset disposal and as an organisation we firmly believe in the need for continuous improvement. From our perspective, Sitematch – and in particular the concept of speed dating – presents an opportunity to do things differently and will hopefully generate significant interest in assets we plan to dispose of.

In your opinion, what challenges does the public sector face when promoting surplus land to the private sector? 

Private sector buyers need clarity on the particulars of an asset and its potential.  With an estate as diverse and unique as the MoJ, I believe our thorough approach to planning and preparation makes us well equipped to respond to this need. It is very much a beginning-to-end process covering report on title, planning and marketing reports through to the sale process itself.   

Is all surplus MoJ land meant for housing or are other development types an option? 

The need for a significant number of new homes to be built across the UK makes it inevitable that residential developments are often at the forefront when surplus MoJ sites are brought to market. However, other development types are always an option and in recent years we have disposed of closed courthouses which have been converted into veterinary practices, retirement homes and also a free school.

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