Jonathan Cornelius, TfL reports from our recent Think Tank which brought together key individuals from the public and private sectors to discuss delivering successful partnerships.
With economic uncertainty still with us, it is evident that to deliver on the challenges that London faces from both an employment and housing perspective, the public and private sectors need to work closer together. It is therefore timely that the NLA organised a Think Tank as part of its London Borough Programme, bringing together key individuals from both the public and private sector to discuss what is needed to deliver successful public/private partnerships.
TfL - or what is now known as Transport Trading Limited Properties (TTLP) – has been creating development joint ventures since 2014, embracing the skills the private sector bring to deliver our ambitious housing and development targets. Our journey has not been straight forward and, although we will soon be celebrating the practical completion of our first (now completely sold out) scheme in Waltham Forest - a JV between TfL, Barratts and L&Q, we have certainly encountered a number of points raised in the discussion.
It is claimed we live in the information age but open communication was raised as a challenge in establishing successful public/private partnerships. It could be that this is down to trust or confidentiality concerns - especially with the public sector’s need for transparency - but it is evident we need to find a way to resolve this.
Resources - both financial and personnel, especially the retention of key individuals in the public sector - was seen as a challenge to creating effective partnerships. The lack of appetite on the public sector’s part to take risks and be able to invest in partnerships so that there is true alignment of interests in ventures was seen as a negative to forming successful partnerships. Since 1 April 2022, TTLP has been operating on the basis that no further funding would be provided by TfL and that we would operate purely from our own financial resources. As we have before, TTLP will invest in both its development and investment joint ventures, matching the private sector investment in line with its own percentage stake.
Both the public and private sectors bring something different to partnerships and each side must recognise the key skills the other offers. From a TTLP perspective, our partners have embraced the work undertaken to establish both our skills/training hubs and our Sustainable Development Framework (SDF) in creating better developments for them and increasing the supply of locally trained, skilled construction workers.
A key challenge to increasing the breadth of public private partnerships remains at the procurement stage, which it was felt, has tended to be geared towards larger organisations with the time and resource available to complete what sometimes can be long and complex bureaucratic processes. The lack of flexibility within these procurements can sometimes lead to issues should the economic situation change between tender response and implementation in turn leading to delays in implementation.
We ended the session on a positive with all parties agreeing that successful private public partnerships benefitted from full and meaningful public engagement which would be enhanced further if there was a tangible way of identifying and recording the social value of what is being created.
Public/private partnerships will be the way to deliver more for London and through our shared knowledge and experiences we can ensure their future success.