Government property DG Mike Parsons reflects on a milestone year in the government’s ambitious estate reforms
With the end of 2018 fast approaching, we asked the UK's top civil servants to look back at the year, outline their goals for 2019 – and tell us who would turn on their town’s Christmas lights.
What was your highlight of 2018?
The first year in a new role often takes on an added significance, and there have been more than a few moments over the past 12 months that have given me cause to reflect. Three, however, stand out as real milestones in the development of the property function. First, the release of the Government Estate Strategy, with commitments that will ensure our estate not only delivers value for the taxpayer but also acts as a platform for the delivery of government’s wider commitments. Second, the launch of the new Government Property Agency, which reframes the way we manage our multi-billion pound annual investment in government offices by advancing a pan-government, portfolio approach. And third, the appointment of a government chief property officer and head of profession, to ensure that our people have the support and skills they need to continue to deliver our ambitious agenda.
What was the hardest part of being a leader in 2018?
Across both the property industry and the civil service, there has been a need to face up to how much remains to be done in pursuit of true diversity and inclusion. This has required some difficult conversations to be had and some difficult questions to be asked, and there remains more to be done if we are to create a culture that is truly inclusive and values difference. On a personal note, leaving my previous role at the Home Office, where I had been for five years, to take up this new position as head of the property function has certainly brought with it a new leadership challenge, requiring a shift from a primarily departmental perspective to one that is wider in outlook.
What are the main challenges facing your profession in the coming year?
Looking ahead, there remains much to be done in terms of delivering key commitments in the Estate Strategy – including the movement of roles outside London to address regional imbalance and ensure the civil service reflects the society it serves. The upcoming Spending Review too presents both a challenge and an opportunity, providing us with the chance to drive a cross-government approach to the big property challenges. Finally, I recognise that there is still much to be done if we are to achieve a culture that is genuinely inclusive and values diversity, and we must put our collective weight behind this agenda if we are to meet the civil service aim of being the most inclusive employer by 2020.
Which celebrity or historical figure would you choose to turn on the Christmas lights in your town, and why?
Kate Adie – for her brave, honest and engaging reporting.
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