OPE is an established national programme, with over 650 projects, involving 97 per cent of local authorities in England, 13 government departments, as well as local public sector partners such as emergency services and health organisations. Since its establishment in 2013 it has gone from strength to strength, supporting public sector partners to generate c.£456 million in capital receipts, saved taxpayers £87.5 million in running costs, helped create over 31,000 new jobs and released land for over 19,000 new homes.
Our 72 existing partnerships work together to identify greater opportunities for collaboration to meet local and national priorities. Our partnerships cover combined authority, sub-regional and local authority areas. They are united by a common goal to create greater value out of their combined public estate through shared spaces, joined up services and releasing surplus assets.
OPE has shown how early stage support, using estate as a catalyst for change and investigating opportunities to collaborate across the public sector can deliver successful outcomes. OPE adds value by supporting projects which otherwise may not come forward, or by accelerating delivery of outcomes.
In 2017, the programme implemented a funding model that included a portion of sustainable grant, enabling the recycling of some awards back into the programme. Since then, OPE has distributed £8.3 million in sustainable grants and has continued to successfully recycle grants into new and innovative projects delivered by OPE partnerships.
With well-established partnerships in place across England, the programme is now looking to reinvest a greater proportion of funding to support more projects to come forward.
We will be awarding 75% of OPE revenue grant as sustainable grants, connecting a contribution back to the programme to a successful transaction or event during the project lifecycle; for example: a disposal, a lease ending, a co-location, or cost avoidance activity. We recognise that investing at an early stage means that not every opportunity can be delivered; where this success trigger is not realised, a contribution back to the programme will not be expected.
OPE recognises the investment that partnerships make over the project lifecycle through a variety of ways including project management, match-funding, and capital funding. In their applications, partnerships are required to outline the investment being made in the early stages of each project, which will be considered as part of the assessment.
This will be OPE’s ninth application round. Our core OPE ethos remains – a locally led programme, bringing national and local public sector partners together to address shared priorities through collaboration.
As well as funding, we provide dedicated support from OPE regional teams to:
- broker central and local government collaboration
- advise on delivery and best practice
- help to develop your partnership and projects
- unblock barriers and act as honest brokers
- help champion partnerships, projects and initiatives
- access to government land and property leads to inform transformation
- access to regional and national networks of best practice
- access to a Pool of Experts framework providing specialist expertise
- access to national public estate mapping software.
More broadly, OPE provides a formal forum for collaboration across a range of policy agendas, with government recognition, participation and support. Our network of public sector professionals work together at local, regional and national levels. We target funding to develop projects which support national and local priorities, where that investment and partnership working is essential for delivery.
All eligible public bodies should apply for OPE funding and support through their local OPE partnership.
- One Public Estate funding
OPE is offering a total of £12 million revenue grant to support collaborative property-based projects which will deliver our core benefits of capital receipts, reduced running costs, releasing land for new homes and enabling new jobs. £9m of this funding will be awarded as sustainable grant, linked to the successful delivery of an individual project and its benefits.
This funding is available to support early stage project costs. We will fund land and property projects which:
- demonstrate collaboration across local government, central government and wider public sector bodies
- contribute to our core programme outputs (homes, jobs, capital receipts and reduced running costs), with a particular focus upon projects which include housing benefits
- support the Government’s commitment to level-up every part of the UK by investing in towns, cities, rural and coastal areas.
OPE awards will be a minimum £50,000 per project
Typical types of OPE funded activity are:
- master planning
- feasibility studies
- business case development
- options appraisals
- surveys, valuations and design works
- specialist expertise
- project management.
Types of activity not funded include, but are not limited to:
- planning application fees
- community consultation
- legal fees
- capital works.
All partnerships are expected to include a minimum proportion of 75% sustainable grant in their applications. The application should indicate the OPE projects and details of the transactions or events to which the contribution back to the programme will be linked, along with the anticipated timing, if that outcome is delivered. This approach reflects the enabling investment being provided through OPE funding and enables the programme to support further projects by recycling (at the appropriate time) a proportion of all awards where projects successfully deliver sufficient benefits.
Following our assessment of applications, we may offer a greater proportion of sustainable grant in some cases and where appropriate.. This is to ensure sustainable grants are allocated fairly across the country and targeted to activity which we believe best supports contributions back to the programme. In such cases, your regional team will discuss this with you at the earliest opportunity.
- Supporting capacity
To support capacity at a local level, the pool of experts and programme management can be considered by OPE partnerships where additional capacity and capability is required to support the partnership and/or specific project deliverables.
- Pool of Experts
Our Pool of Experts has been established to provide capacity and professional capability to support and deliver projects where expertise does not reside in-house.
Specific specialised skills include:
- master planning
- feasibility studies
- options appraisals
- programme management
Individuals have undergone basic vetting and are able to be called on at short notice. This offers a streamlined approach to procuring expertise. Partnerships should use their own funds, or the OPE grant awarded to cover Pool of Experts costs. If considering, partnerships should discuss their requirements with their OPE Regional Team who can advise further.
- Programme management support
OPE recognises the critical importance of strong and dedicated programme management. We encourage local contributions to cover this function for OPE and LRF projects, which many partnerships have already put in place. Where this is not possible, partnerships can make the case for funding support in their applications and should discuss with their Regional Team in the first instance. Sustainable grant will not be applicable to programme management awards.
Assessment of OPE applications
All applications will be jointly assessed by Cabinet Office, the LGA and MHCLG on a competitive basis in light of advice from regional programme managers responsible for the area.
Bids will be evaluated by applying the following criteria:
- 1. OPE pre-selection criteria
Applications will only be considered if the partnership agree to meet the pre-selection criteria.
- 2. Full assessment against OPE criteria
Including the degree to which the project supports local economic recovery, and the links to local and national government priorities including levelling up and net zero carbon
Level of cross-public sector involvement
Including the degree to which both central and local government partners are involved and will benefit from the project
Added value of our funding and support
In enabling, enhancing or accelerating the project, also taking into account the investment partners are making
Value for money and level of forecast benefits
Ensuring that OPE projects demonstrate value for money in the level of benefits they deliver for the investment sought
Confidence in delivery
Confidence in partnership arrangements, the deliverability of the project and associated timescales, and track record of delivery and the impact (existing partnerships)
Where the funding is over-subscribed we will take into account the geographical spread, ensuring the programme supports the Government’s commitment to level-up every part of the UK.
We reserve the right to partially fund grant applications and we may award a greater proportion of sustainable grant in response to OPE applications.