Interview: Andy Starkie from Inner Circle Consulting

Wed 16th January 2019, 9:31 am

How does Inner Circle Consulting (ICC) work with local authorities attending Sitematch London to ensure the event runs smoothly and delegates get the best out of the day? We spoke to ICC’s director Andy Starie to find out.

Could you say something about your role at Inner Circle?

I joined Inner Circle Consulting (ICC) in January 2017 as a director with Chris Twigg and Jamie Ounan, whom I’ve known for many years. The move supported ICC’s growth plan, offering even more director capacity to enable the business to grow elegantly, ensuring that through growth, we maintained senior capacity at both client/operational level but also increased internal support for team development and business stability. With an engineering background, and coming from a large consultancy, I brought additional strength in design, procurement and delivery expertise, complementing the existing strategic, policy and organisational prowess that Jamie and Chris had established. As a company, we now have director specialisms right through the inception, strategy, design and delivery stages as a foundation to help organisations prepare for change and help them deliver it.

With a background in running large consultancy teams, I’m also developing the enhancement of ICC’s internal business systems and processes, that will enable us to ensure a consistently superior standard of client service while we continue to grow at pace. This means that we continue to offer considered, bespoke and innovative solutions built from a platform of robust control and rigor.

At ICC, we believe that the best solutions are yet to be discovered and the best outcomes yet to be delivered. That is why we prepare organisations for change and help them implement it. We do this through an intimate understanding of their business, a relentless focus on delivery, the use of techniques that challenge the status quo and bridge traditional disciplines. We provide a range of services to public and private organisations including project and programme management, property consultancy, change management and strategy development and strategic advice.

As a Sitematch adviser, what value do you add to the meetings?

As a Sitematch adviser, our role is to fully understand the needs of the authority we are supporting. This is not only in terms of understanding the details of the projects or programmes they wish to develop, but also their organisational objectives.

It’s important for us to spend time with the authorities ahead of the day to help articulate, with them, what they want to get out of the day, build a clear narrative that the authority wants to give and how to achieve it. Through understanding the types of discussions they need to have, advising which private sector organisations they need to meet to deliver their ambitions, and developing clarity of messaging. We ensure discussions on the day are quick, decisive, and fruitful. This preparation is vital considering the 15 minute window.

After the day, we work with the team at 3Fox International to facilitate follow-up meetings with the partners offering the best fit.

What would you suggest first time delegates can do to best prepare for the event?

There is always surprise at how quickly each meeting finishes (15 minutes), so it is important to be clear on what you want to get from each session, including if there are specific questions you want to ask at different meetings. Preparation is key in getting the most out of the day and, as such, the material you bring with you to articulate your points and messages is key. We find a map of the borough with sites identified is useful, along with a forecast programme of when developments, regeneration or masterplanning will take place. It is also helpful to be clear on the governance and approvals of each scheme, so that the private sector can understand how secure each opportunity is.

Additionally, I’d say it’s important to consider who is representing the authority. Bear in mind, this is a two-way conversation and the private sector will be looking to who they feel they can invest in and transact with – the authorities that have had the most success at Sitematch London have understood this and fielded the right team.

Be clear on what are you trying to achieve from meeting the private sector. Are you there to:

a. Raise awareness of the plans for the borough, stimulating market interest for future proposals/ tenders?
b. Seek private sector insight on how to unlock some of the barriers currently facing your delivery?
c. Seek understanding of how to release an imminent proposal to harvest the deepest market interest and increase the quality of responses received, improving the quality of the relationship going forward?
d. Looking to create a more transactional environment where programmes are well developed and about to come out to the market?

Also, given the brevity of the meetings, its good for authorities to consider how they can, and will, follow up on interesting conversations. Would a series of follow up meetings be put in place, or a market workshop or soft market testing further develop the initial conversation?

If all the above is considered, the conversations will be far more fruitful on the day, but more importantly raise more serious quality interest in investments in the borough.

Sitematch London has been taking place since 2012. Throughout the years, how has the approach of London boroughs to regeneration changed?

I think local authorities have, in recent years, become more open to the opportunities and necessity of working with the private sector to unlock barriers to regeneration and development. Increasing interest to see private sector investment has opened more conversations and developed innovative approaches to maintain delivery, even in the face of budget cuts and other challenges. Councils are leading discussions and proudly presenting schemes to property developers to secure appropriate investment.

This has also manifested a shift in councils’ approach to risk sharing. The strategy to avoid all risk has morphed into an understanding that there are some risks that the public sector is best placed to manage and control and that by taking back some risk, there is an increase in interest, quality and engagement by the private sector, driving greater efficiency into tender returns and development proposals for the council. While this cannot always address all risks, it creates an environment where most developers are aware of the challenges, and most would rather work with local authorities to overcome problems rather than exploit the tensions in the system.

The private sector can help by understanding the pressures that local authority planning services are under and fostering a partnership rather than an adversarial approach. An open approach to negotiations is already the exception rather than the rule; it always helps when developers are willing to listen to advice on such things as the timing planning applications. Chief planning officers know the quirks of their committees.

For more information about Inner Circle Consulting, or to discuss a project, contact admin@innercircleconsulting.co.uk.

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