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The phrase ‘Build Back Better’ has been widely discussed for many years, yet the concept now carries new resonance as world leaders begin to consider post-COVID-19 recovery strategies.

In summer, the Prime Minister pledged to “build the UK back to health”, however, the reality of achieving will likely be a lengthy process. Our public sector needs significant financial investment for it to ‘build back better’ after the ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic, on top of what many have described as years of underinvestment in UK infrastructure and equipment.

What’s more, the importance of the UK’s accelerated transition towards a net-zero economy means that there is now additional pressure on the ‘Build Back Better’ to align with our plans for a green recovery plan. The Prime Minister’s recent announcement of a 10-point green plan brings forward dates for some green targets, including the electrification of vehicles and an increase in offshore wind power.

This latest movement underlines the government’s renewed focus on implementing sustainable, environmentally-friendly solutions to align with these wider targets.

Private sector support

At Solutions Asset Finance, we’re experienced in structuring and funding finance solutions for the public sector, with a particular focus on the NHS.

We recognise the need for the NHS and other public sector organisations to future proof their services to ensure their resilience for the next 5 years and the possibility of new or changing priorities. If the Coronavirus pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that priorities can change drastically in little time, so adaptability must be key.

Funding provision for these organisations is vital but will only go a short way in giving all services the flexibility required to serve our country and meet the requirements of our population.

According to recent reports, there is a maintenance backlog of £6.5bn in NHS Trusts. To truly 'Build Back Better', public sector organisations will require access to large funds so they can invest in services and make sure they are fit for purpose.

This is where private companies, such as SAF, can genuinely add value. Appropriately structured funding solutions can enable public sector organisation’s to make the upgrades, additions and extensions needed to their infrastructure and equipment, without the need for large amounts of capital outlay.

A modular approach

In recent years, we’ve funded around £200m of modular facilities into the NHS and public sector. As part of this, we can provide bespoke, managed service agreements which combine the overall cost of the facility and maintenance fees into one monthly rental agreement. With this method, hospitals can begin to benefit from new facilities immediately.

Offsite construction should not be overlooked as we consider how to best recover from the COVID-19 pandemic in the coming months and years. Modular facilities offer a sustainable and timely way to provide additional capacity to public sector services, while the delivery methods are effective and unobtrusive to live working sites.

What’s more, decisions are often delayed due to cash flow or capital concerns, but using a leasing option can support the efficient delivery of projects, eradicating this concern. Budgets are agreed from the outset and a structured repayment method is developed in line with these, so there’s no need for projects to be delayed or disrupted.

Moreover, modular builds can help NHS Trusts ensure that they are optimising the space available to them, offering state-of-the-art facilities that can extend existing units. Modules can be installed into spaces that would be ill-suited to a traditional approach, meaning that no square foot of hospital estate is ever wasted.

Conclusion

It’s encouraging to see the government recognises the importance of building a resilient, carbon-neutral society, but bringing this to fruition will be very expensive.

Funding for the NHS and public sectors is imperative, however, it is unlikely that there will be sufficient finance available to provide organisations up and down the country with the funding they require.

Flexible finance solutions are a viable alternative and should be utilised at this time. A lack of capital outlay should no longer be an excuse for projects not being completed and services being substandard, so as an industry we have an important role to play in joining up the dots and making sure NHS Trusts and the companies in their supply chain can turn to companies like SAF for support.

We will also need to reimagine the delivery of projects to transition towards achieving our nation-wide net-zero targets. So often, sustainability is the first factor to be knocked off the priority list when it comes to forecasting budgets for a new project. Looking ahead to 2021 and beyond, it doesn’t look as though this will be an option for much longer.

It is time for the public and private sectors to come together and support one another if we are to see our country ‘Build Back Better.’

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