Unitas

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Unitas's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Unitas is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles

unitas.co.uk

THE PARLIAMENTARY REVIEW
Highlighting best practice
THE PARLIAMENTARY REVIEW
Highlighting best practice
20 | UNITAS
Director of Housing and
Customer Services Carl Brazier
Unitas are a wholly-owned subsidiary
of Stoke-on-Trent City Council
Stoke-on-Trent City Council launched Unitas, a wholly owned
subsidiary, in February 2018. As a £45-million turnover
company, they employ 440 people alongside a fleet of
subcontractors. Unitas are responsible for maintaining and
refurbishing 18,500 social housing properties and 600 public
buildings – including theatres, museums and civic buildings. Thanks
to the model they use, they are able to generate a profit of £4.5
million back to the city council allowing for further investment and
development in that regard. The city council’s Director of Housing
and Customer Services, Carl Brazier, tells
The Parliamentary Review
about their purpose as a “big picture organisation”.
Prior to Unitas, the council was in a ten-year joint venture with private sector
contractor Kier. After an options appraisal, we decided to bring our refurbishment
and maintenance operations in-house – it was the best way that the city could see
a return on the investment we were making.
All local authorities have in recent years struggled with finances – we know that.
There’s a lot of pressure with austerity – that’s the case in Stoke, as it is everywhere
else in the country. Our departments for adult and child social care have struggled
financially, and over the years the council has had to reduce its workforce, resulting
in a more challenging environment.
With Unitas, any profit goes back into the council rather than into the pockets of
a plc’s shareholders. It can ergo bolster these struggling services. That was one of
our core aims when we established the service, and we have been successful in
achieving it thus far.
FACTS ABOUT
UNITAS
»Director of Housing and
Customer Services: CarlBrazier
»Established in 2018
»Based in Stoke-on-Trent
»Services: Maintenance and
refurbishment in Stoke
»No. of employees: 440
»Turnover: £45 million
Unitas
21UNITAS |
CIVIL SOCIETY
Three key initiatives
The council’s administration decided
we’d be a wholly owned subsidiary
with three initiatives in mind:
»supporting the council
»improving service to customers
»supporting the local supply chain
As part of the project, when we were
establishing Unitas, I asked Unitas
Stoke-on-Trent Operations Director
Steve Wilson to conduct a number of
fundamental service reviews on things
like response and repair services, gas,
compliance, empty properties and
health and safety.
Comparisons with Kier
Under the Kier contract, we had:
»389 empty properties, with an
average void time of 54 days
»an average repair cost of £1,171
»66 per cent of appointments made
and kept
»28 per cent of services outsourced to
local contractors
These figures have now changed under
Unitas – some of them markedly:
»192 empty properties, with an
average void time of 25 days
»an average repair cost of £870
»96 per cent of appointments made
and kept
»76 per cent of services outsourced to
local contractors
From a socioeconomic point of view,
we can see that there are not only
greater levels of employment in the city
as a consequence but also more people
spending money. If you get contractors
in from, for example, Birmingham, the
money they make goes back home – it
isn’t spent in Stoke.
Steve Wilson went on to say: “We
also improved on the previous
system by designing an innovative
procurementexercise. We undertook
workshops with local companies
to help them understand the basic
principles of winning contracts; small
contractors don’t tend to have bid
writers, so we’ve undertaken a lot
of work to help small companies
understand the tender process.”
Improving IT systems
As part of the transition from Kier
to Unitas, and to enable a “soft
landing” of sorts, we’ve overhauled
and modernised our IT. Although the
company was launched in February
2018, this was still underway well
into 2019; it’s proven to be a real
difficulty and a fundamental shift from
antiquated technology.
On paper, it would have been possible
to work on this transition at the time
of transfer early last year; moving all of
our other systems across on intermittent
and unfamiliar computers, however,
would not have been an intelligent
move. The next challenge we face is
final implementation of a suite of new
technology which will hopefully allow us
to be more efficient than ever before.
Improved staff morale and
productivity
We’ve had a genuine focus on staff
wellbeing and building a positive
culture which has yielded great
results. Sickness absence has improved
Unitas have made a
marked improvement
to refurbishment and
maintenance services
across the city
With Unitas, any
profit goes back
into the council
rather than into
the pockets of a
plc’s
shareholders
BEST PRACTICE REPRESENTATIVE 2019
THE PARLIAMENTARY REVIEW
Highlighting best practice
20 | UNITAS
Director of Housing and
Customer Services Carl Brazier
Unitas are a wholly-owned subsidiary
of Stoke-on-Trent City Council
Stoke-on-Trent City Council launched Unitas, a wholly owned
subsidiary, in February 2018. As a £45-million turnover
company, they employ 440 people alongside a fleet of
subcontractors. Unitas are responsible for maintaining and
refurbishing 18,500 social housing properties and 600 public
buildings – including theatres, museums and civic buildings. Thanks
to the model they use, they are able to generate a profit of £4.5
million back to the city council allowing for further investment and
development in that regard. The city council’s Director of Housing
and Customer Services, Carl Brazier, tells
The Parliamentary Review
about their purpose as a “big picture organisation”.
Prior to Unitas, the council was in a ten-year joint venture with private sector
contractor Kier. After an options appraisal, we decided to bring our refurbishment
and maintenance operations in-house – it was the best way that the city could see
a return on the investment we were making.
All local authorities have in recent years struggled with finances – we know that.
There’s a lot of pressure with austerity – that’s the case in Stoke, as it is everywhere
else in the country. Our departments for adult and child social care have struggled
financially, and over the years the council has had to reduce its workforce, resulting
in a more challenging environment.
With Unitas, any profit goes back into the council rather than into the pockets of
a plc’s shareholders. It can ergo bolster these struggling services. That was one of
our core aims when we established the service, and we have been successful in
achieving it thus far.
FACTS ABOUT
UNITAS
»Director of Housing and
Customer Services: CarlBrazier
»Established in 2018
»Based in Stoke-on-Trent
»Services: Maintenance and
refurbishment in Stoke
»No. of employees: 440
»Turnover: £45 million
Unitas
21UNITAS |
CIVIL SOCIETY
Three key initiatives
The council’s administration decided
we’d be a wholly owned subsidiary
with three initiatives in mind:
»supporting the council
»improving service to customers
»supporting the local supply chain
As part of the project, when we were
establishing Unitas, I asked Unitas
Stoke-on-Trent Operations Director
Steve Wilson to conduct a number of
fundamental service reviews on things
like response and repair services, gas,
compliance, empty properties and
health and safety.
Comparisons with Kier
Under the Kier contract, we had:
»389 empty properties, with an
average void time of 54 days
»an average repair cost of £1,171
»66 per cent of appointments made
and kept
»28 per cent of services outsourced to
local contractors
These figures have now changed under
Unitas – some of them markedly:
»192 empty properties, with an
average void time of 25 days
»an average repair cost of £870
»96 per cent of appointments made
and kept
»76 per cent of services outsourced to
local contractors
From a socioeconomic point of view,
we can see that there are not only
greater levels of employment in the city
as a consequence but also more people
spending money. If you get contractors
in from, for example, Birmingham, the
money they make goes back home – it
isn’t spent in Stoke.
Steve Wilson went on to say: “We
also improved on the previous
system by designing an innovative
procurementexercise. We undertook
workshops with local companies
to help them understand the basic
principles of winning contracts; small
contractors don’t tend to have bid
writers, so we’ve undertaken a lot
of work to help small companies
understand the tender process.”
Improving IT systems
As part of the transition from Kier
to Unitas, and to enable a “soft
landing” of sorts, we’ve overhauled
and modernised our IT. Although the
company was launched in February
2018, this was still underway well
into 2019; it’s proven to be a real
difficulty and a fundamental shift from
antiquated technology.
On paper, it would have been possible
to work on this transition at the time
of transfer early last year; moving all of
our other systems across on intermittent
and unfamiliar computers, however,
would not have been an intelligent
move. The next challenge we face is
final implementation of a suite of new
technology which will hopefully allow us
to be more efficient than ever before.
Improved staff morale and
productivity
We’ve had a genuine focus on staff
wellbeing and building a positive
culture which has yielded great
results. Sickness absence has improved
Unitas have made a
marked improvement
to refurbishment and
maintenance services
across the city
With Unitas, any
profit goes back
into the council
rather than into
the pockets of a
plc’s
shareholders
THE PARLIAMENTARY REVIEW
Highlighting best practice
THE PARLIAMENTARY REVIEW
Highlighting best practice
22 | UNITAS
from six to three per cent, resulting
in a £500,000 saving is agency and
subcontractor back filling costs, which
is testament to the motivational
leadership that we are truly proud of.
We’ve ensured that our employees
have good terms and conditions of
employment and feel listened to.
Examples of this include opting to
permit all existing and new employees
to join the LGPS pension scheme to less
significant actions such as allowing trade
staff to wear shorts in hot weather.
Fire safety legislation
We have tower blocks ourselves in
Stoke, and we know the government
had to take a hard line on how these
types of buildings are regulated after
the Grenfell tragedy in 2017.
There does, however, need to be
more clarity. When it comes to old
buildings, fire safety regulations aren’t
retrospective. They only apply at the
time, up and down the country, when
the building is first constructed.
To avoid disasters like this, we need
more guidance. More effective
legislation that comes into effect on a
retrospective basis, although requiring
a Herculean effort, would mean safer
buildings – safer homes – all across
theUK.
Future endeavours –
expansion a priority
We’ve seen parent company growth
and we want to expand the business.
The £4.5 million we gave back to the
council last year is just an example.
With a one-team approach, we are
uniquely positioned to generate
more revenue and support all council
services, consequently improving the
lives of everyone in the community.
After £1.5 million in organic growth
after our first year, we have the
capacity to now renovate civic
offices and neighbourhood centres
– effectively serving as the “front of
house” for the council.
Beyond that, we also want to start
delivering third-party maintenance
contracts across Stoke. Staffordshire
University serves 15,000 students –
why aren’t our teams servicing their
facilities and undertaking construction
or refurbishment work?
Alongside that, we’re seeing a real
opportunity in the private rental
sector. House prices in Stoke are
comparatively low, and we have a high
saturation of private landlords. If we
can start taking on building works, gas
safety inspections and repairs, just for
example, in that sector, there’s a real
opportunity to generate more revenue
for the council.
Finally, we want to expand our service
and look at tendering for other social
housing providers along the city
boundary in the same vein.
The work we’ve been doing thus far
has been nothing short of outstanding.
We provide a value-adding service to
Stoke-on-Trent City Council and in our
first year alone have proven ourselves
as a real benefit, both out in the field
and on the balance sheet. I only hope
this trend can continue with so many
opportunities ahead of us.
We are
uniquely
positioned to
generate more
revenue and
support all
council
services
We are constantly looking
to improve our service
23CHARISMA RECRUITMENT |
CIVIL SOCIETY
Managing Director,
Jenny Warner
Selecting inspired
professionals
Managing Director Jenny Warner founded Charisma
Recruitment in 2002 after selling her former
recruitment consultancy. Having previously been
involved with a number of charities as a volunteer, Jenny
witnessed a widespread issue across the sector – many of these
organisations were struggling with staffing. Over the past 17
years, Charisma have worked to alleviate that problem, and
now serve as a highly specialist consultancy for the charity and
not-for-profit sector. They focus predominantly on middle to
senior management alongside also placing new trustees and
chief executives. Jenny tells
The Parliamentary Review
more
about Charisma’s work in the third sector, and how they absorb
and understand each client’s culture to find the best candidate
for every role.
We’re an independent, specialist recruitment consultancy. Around 80 per cent of
what we do is repeat business or comes about as the result of recommendations or
referrals from satisfied clients and candidates.
Since 2002, we have worked in – and grown to know – a broad variety of different
charity sectors. These include arts and culture, healthcare, disability, youth support,
housing, faith, care for older people, animal welfare and also military organisations.
Alongside this, the size of clients we partner with ranges considerably – whether
it’s a local charity or national organisation in question, we are always able to offer
our expert services.
FACTS ABOUT
CHARISMA RECRUITMENT
»Founder and Managing
Director: Jenny Warner
»Established in 2002
»Based in Winchester and
London
»Services: Executive search and
selection for charities and not-
for-profit organisations
»No. of employees: 7
»Extensive geographical reach
throughout the UK on all
executive assignments
»charismarecruitment.co.uk
Charisma Recruitment

unitas.co.uk

This article was sponsored by Unitas. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from Rt Hon Michael Gove.

Rt Hon Michael Gove's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Michael Gove

This year's Parliamentary Review comes at a momentous time for parliament, as we collectively determine the destiny of the United Kingdom. 

On October 31, the UK will leave the European Union. The successful implementation of this process is this government's number-one priority.

Three years after a historic referendum vote, we will deliver on the decisive mandate from the British people. Trust in our democracy depends on it. Until that final hour, we will work determinedly and diligently to negotiate a deal, one that abolishes the backstop and upholds the warm and close relationship we share with our friends, allies and neighbours in the EU. But in the event that the EU refuses to meet us at the table, we must be prepared to leave without a deal.

As the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, it is my job to lead on this government's approach, should that scenario happen. Preparing for Brexit is my department's driving mission. But while I am leading this turbocharged effort, the whole of government is committed to this endeavour.

Ministers across Whitehall are working together to ensure that every possibility is considered, every plan is scrutinised and every provision is made. A daily drumbeat of meetings means that we are holding departments accountable, so that preparations are completed on time.

The chancellor has confirmed that all necessary funding will be made available. And we have mobilised thecivil service, assigning 15,000 of our most talented civil servants to manage our exit from the EU.

We will make sure that on November 1, there is as little disruption to national life as possible. Our trade relationships will continue to thrive, thanks to agreements with countries around the world worth £70 billion. Our country will remain secure, thanks to nearly 1,000 new officers posted at our borders. And the 3.2 million EU nationals now living and working among us can remain confident, with absolute certainty, of their right to remain in the UK.

Above all, our goal is to be transparent. Soon, we will launch a public information campaign so that citizens, communities and businesses are ready and reassured about what will happen in the event of “no deal”.

In my first few weeks in this role, I have travelled to ports and tarmacs, borders and bridges, all across the UK –from the seaside of Dover to the rolling green hills of County Armagh. I have heard from business owners and border officials, farmers and hauliers. They are ready to put an end to uncertainty. And they are ready to embrace the opportunities ahead.

Our departure from the EU will be a once in a lifetime chance to chart a new course for the United Kingdom. Preparing for that new course will be a herculean effort. But this country has made astounding efforts before. We can do it again.
Rt Hon Michael Gove
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster