Paul McGirk: Hub South East is delivering real benefits

Hub South East Scotland – development partner to councils, NHS boards and emergency services in Edinburgh, the Lothians and Borders – has been operational since 2010.
Paul McGirk, chief executive of Hub South East ScotlandPaul McGirk, chief executive of Hub South East Scotland
Paul McGirk, chief executive of Hub South East Scotland

The Hub model is no longer theoretical and our latest annual report, endorsed by our public sector partners, highlights demonstrable evidence that we are delivering tangible benefits across south-east Scotland.

Reflecting a national approach to the delivery of community infrastructure, the idea behind the Scottish Futures Trust setting up Hub companies in Scotland was to:

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Provide a more efficient, quicker, sustainable procurement methodology for public sector bodies, resulting in value for money

Increase the scale of joint service working and integration between public sector organisations, resulting in better service delivery

Increase opportunities for strategic asset management

Create real Community Benefits for local people and businesses

So five years in, are we meeting these objectives? With 35 facilities worth £96 million open and operational – all handed over within the agreed budget – we now have the evidence to support that we most certainly are. There is obviously a great deal we can still achieve and we are not complacent. We have already learned lessons which will make future projects more efficient, but we are now in no doubt that the Hub initiative can successfully deliver on its aims – from speed of delivery and costs certainty, to local community benefits.

Completed facilities in the south-east area range from schools and health centres to community hubs and day care centres, as well as an ambulance station and the newly opened Galashiels Transport Interchange. We are encouraging collaboration, whether between the same partner (Craigmillar Neighbourhood Office – housing various Edinburgh Council staff) or cross-agency (Wester Hailes Healthy Living Centre – council and NHS staff sharing). In addition to the new build element, we have used the Hub process flexibly to assist our partners with small-scale refurbishments, from offices to public toilets!

We have a further £77m projects on site at the moment and more than £200m in development. But our focus isn’t simply on the bricks and mortar of construction projects. As service redesign is undoubtedly a key priority for our partners, we are increasingly acting as an enabler to ensure that innovative solutions are found to do more with less.

We are working in partnership with public sector bodies and our supply chain to assist in solving strategic issues, such as the issue of rising rolls in schools, where we have developed a programme to deliver long-term, quality school extensions in short timescales. We have already delivered 14 facilities on time and on budget in Edinburgh and testament to its success we are now on site in West Lothian with a similar extension.

The Hub process is fully flexible and goes way beyond traditional delivery frameworks. Our partners can work with us to identify strategic service priorities, reconfigure their existing estates assets, identify funding options and develop specific building solutions.

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Partners are enjoying the benefits of us providing strategic support services (such as estates and service planning), as this allows them independently, or in partnership, to develop projects and initiatives at a strategic level, therefore de-risking key elements before committing financial resources. We are currently involved in a number of exciting potential projects under strategic support and if their viability is proven, they could potentially be rolled out across the south-east territory.

Key to the success of all Hub projects is the involvement of local people and in terms of wider economic gain and delivering community benefits, we continue to meet and often exceed key targets in a number of areas.

Since 2010, 84 per cent of the contracts we have awarded on completed projects have been to Scottish SMEs. In addition to this we have supported more than 1,600 days of work placements, 15,000 school, site and further education visits and 81 graduate places. In this last year alone 54 new jobs and 68 apprenticeship and trainee places have been created on Hub projects in Edinburgh, the Lothians and Borders – that’s almost double what we had achieved in the first four years of operation.

Is the Hub process always easy? No – complex development and construction programmes rarely are and this is no different. Alongside our successes, we have challenges and at times the partnership is tested. But what we do have is a collective vision and commitment to ensure that Hub delivers on its aims and by working together, developing solutions in partnership, we are able to move past issues and focus on the future.

We look forward to the year ahead with excitement, further strengthening relations across Edinburgh, the Lothians and Borders and launching new initiatives such as our innovation programme. And of course, we will continue to develop and successfully deliver projects for our partners which further demonstrate why we should be their development partner of choice.

Paul McGirk is chief executive of Hub South East Scotland