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The crossover from the private to the public sector

At the start of 2020, many of us would not have predicted that the majority of the world would have been under strict lockdown guidelines. Even though it seems we have surpassed the peak of the pandemic and the economy is beginning to start up again, everyday life will still be governed by some sort of restriction for at least the next 12-18 months. However, the good news, we should be able to enjoy an outdoor pint at our local or a meal out at our favourite restaurant soon, as long as the weather holds up!

Across the UK, many businesses furloughed a large proportion of their staff, whilst those who are fortunate enough to be able to work remotely are doing so. Some 5.42 million people are employed by the public sector in the UK and lockdown or no lockdown, the need to provide services remained. Over the last few months, we have witnessed a remarkable response from the public sector, despite the associated stigma, and an abundance of praise and admiration for those within. With this in mind, we were keen to speak with industry leaders; to discuss their reasons for transitioning into, and what it means to be a part of, the public sector.

Traditionally, the cross over from the private to the public sector more often than not came down to ‘work-life balance’ or perhaps the final stage in someone’s career before retirement. However, it is becoming more and more apparent that the public sector is playing, and will continue to play, an integral part in all things property. Nowadays, the public sector has some of the largest and most ambitious property programmes, with the short, medium and long term vision to improve the lives of residents and their communities.

Ed Skeates, Development Director, Be First

We spoke with Ed Skeates, currently Development Director at Be First (Barking & Dagenham Council’s Regeneration Company), who deems himself ‘lucky to have had a very interesting career in the private sector working for large and small PLC’s, partnerships and Family Offices’ – including Grosvenor Group and Crest Nicholson, however, he was ready to ‘focus his energies towards a public cause’. In terms of the transition, Ed states that ‘the key issue is how to deal with the extra levels of bureaucracy’. There is no hiding the fact that this is a concern for many, however, the counter for this is the ambition of projects and of course, the residents. 

There’s no denying the ambition of these projects is huge, Ed commented: “at Be First, we are delivering over £1bn of development over the next 5 years and that is a huge pipeline for any business and fantastic to see this emerging from a local authority”.

Ed Skeates, Development Director, Be First

Steve Dunevein, Interim Head of Property, Royal Borough of Greenwich

We also spoke with Steve Dunevein, Interim Head of Property at the Royal Borough of Greenwich and he was honest about the fact that, when first offered an opportunity in the public sector 15 years ago, he had some ‘reservations about crossing over to the public sector due to misplaced concerns’ and whether it might ‘prevent him from returning to the private sector’; however, this was not the case. He has found the public sector as ‘interesting and challenging, if not more so, than the private sector and has consequently been able to take on a variety of roles in both sectors, without any issues’.

Steve also states that those crossing over should be ‘prepared to adapt their way of approaching problems – beyond mainly shareholder return and finance to include the impact on residents and communities’. However, the counter for this is that the public sector have ‘vast multi-billion pound property portfolios that need managing’ and this is something that motivates Steve. 

Steve Dunevein, Interim Head of Property, Royal Borough of Greenwich

The public sector has seen an increase in private sector individuals transition over in the last few years (some more successful than others!) and the common reason links back to two factors; firstly, contributing towards a public cause, where you can have a positive impact on residents and their communities and secondly, the public sector becoming a key player in the property market.

The trend in people crossing over from the private sector into the public sector is nothing new. If you are finding yourself at a crossroads and contemplating a move, now is the time to make the change.

Shivan Mehta, Divisional Manager, Oyster Partnership

If you are keen on exploring public sector opportunities or simply seeking advice, contact Dino, Ali or Shivan.

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