Inside Fgould podcast, Episode: Manchester City Council’s Our Town Hall

Holly  Kerr
Welcome back to Inside Fgould, a podcast where we provide you with insight into our culture, showcase our innovation and our people. In this episode, we explore one of Manchester city’s greatest cultural and civic assets, Manchester Town Hall.

This episode of Inside Fgould features the Our Town Hall Project Director, Paul Candelent, Project Director from Faithful+Gould, Dan Cadman and Dylan Pritchard, Degree Apprentice, who joined Faithful+Gould via the apprenticeship scheme set up by Manchester City Council. 

Our guests discuss why the future of cities like Manchester is inextricably tied to whether it is a great place to live, how this project is providing opportunities to the communities in Manchester, the sustainable future the project is aspiring for and the innovations the project team is delivering.

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This episode was recorded on 1st April 2021.  

Transcript

Ella Sanders 

I'm Ella Sanders and I welcome you today to Inside Fgould, a podcast where we provide you with insight into our culture, showcase our innovation and our people. 

Today we're joined by three very special guests and we're going to be exploring Manchester City CouncilOur Town Hall project. 

Can I ask each of you to introduce yourselves in a sentence or two? Paul we’ll start with you. 

Paul Candelent 

Hi, I'm Paul Campbell and I'm the project director for the Our Town Hall project. My background comprises working both in other client side organisations and also in private practice consultancy organisations. I joined the City Council to lead this project in 2017, at the point when we were just about to procure the core consultant team. 

Ella Sanders 

Dan, would you like to go next.  

Dan Cadman 

Thanks Ella, I'm Dan Cadman. I'm the Project Director for F+G and I also joined F+G in June 2017 to come and work on this project 'cause I thought it was a fantastic opportunity and fit well with previous work that I've done for the City Council. 

Ella Sanders 

Dylan, if you'd just like to introduce yourself. 

Dylan Pritchard 

Dylan Pritchard, a degree apprentice and I joined up in F+G years ago and then two years prior to that I was on the Our Town Hall project and I started coming in on the apprenticeship scheme that was started by Manchester City Council. 

 Ella Sanders 

That’s fantastic, so firstly, if I could just still say thanks to everybody for joining us here today and for agreeing to be on Inside Fgould. And Paul, if we could kick off with you, I'd really like for you to give us a bit of background on thOur Town Hall project. 

Paul Candelent 

Yeah, sure, the projects all about the repair and partial restoration of the town Hall and the public realm in and around Albert Square. Now these two, these two elements of the city centre are key to the Civic quarter and probably the most important elements in terms of their heritage and symbolic significance for the city. The Town Hall itself is a Grade one listed building and which puts it into the top 2.5% of the most precious heritage buildings in the UKAnd it really is considered to be one of the finest examples of Victorian Neo Gothic architecture in the UK and perhaps in the world. 

It's an incredibly iconic building, and it's much loved by the people of Manchester. When it opened in 1868 at a cost of £500,000the Town Hall was a masterpiece of design innovation for its time. But after 140 years it's no longer fit for purpose, and it's pretty tired. So, what we're all about is bringing the building back to life and setting it up for another 140 years at the civic heart of the city. 

And at the same time, we're reimagining Albert Square as one of the finest public spaces in Europe. But the project's not just about repair and restoration, for the Council and massive part of what we're all about is leaving a very real and lasting economic and social legacy for the city and for the people of the city. 

We called the project Our Town Hall because a lot of this is about our ambition to give back to the people of Manchester. In terms not just of access to the building, but access to opportunities in education and work. 

Ella Sanders 

Well Paul, you've got me inspired there. That was an excellent introduction so thank you so muchDan, could you just give us a bit of insight into how long Faithful+Gould have been engaged on this project? 

Dan Cadman 

Yeah, thanks Ella. So, F+G have been involved for quite some time, since the outset really. So, we did the original condition surveys of the building back in 2015to identify some of the initial problems that the building was facing. And working with the Council to identify the sort of scale of the project that we'd need to do to action some of the problems that poor outlined there in that introduction 

I think following the definition of the project brief, we were appointed this cost consultants and contract administrators and as of today we're sort of four years into an 8 year program, and we've got a core team with 15 people working out of our local office and have been on the project since 2017, sort of full time. We've been involved in the whole of the process so far and we’ve been able to sort of live and breathe the ideas of the Our Manchester strategy which the Town Hall is based on - I'm thinking about the broader objectives that Paul mentioned there in terms of the social and economic legacy that the project is trying to bring to the city, and so it's a fantastic opportunity for F+G and it's going to be a fantastic output for the people of Manchester when we finally hand it back over at the end of the project. 

Ella Sanders 

You mentioned that about the Our Manchester strategy. Paul, how is it that the Our Manchester strategy has informed the future plans of the Town Hall? 

Paul Candelent 

Well, the strategy dates back to 2016 when the Council set out its vision for what we wanted the city to look and feel like in 2025. And it was based upon a program of extensive consultation with residents, volunteers, business leaders, civic leaders and the people of Manchester basically - to investigate how we could all work together to make Manchester THE place that people want to be, to live, work and do business in 2025. So, the output from that that quite significant consultation exercise was distilled into five strategic themes. I'm not going to go into each of them now but by way of a summary, it was all about an ambition to place Manchester amongst the top flight of world class cities. A city with a dynamic economy, highly skilled people, and a place where everyone will feel safe in an attractive and welcoming city. And of course, carbon reduction was a key part of that vision.  

So at a project level by restoring and celebrating this, this iconic heritage assets and massively improving the quality of the public square at the heart of the city, the projects aiming to contribute to the quality of life for all. It'll certainly drive foot forward into the city centre and that of course will spill out into wider economic benefit for the city. 

And it's undoubtedly the case that the future of cities like Manchester is inextricably linked to its being a great place to live and play, and those cities with a high quality of life will both benefit the people who already live in them, but it will also attract greater numbers of talented people into the city, and that in turn attracts investment and jobs. So, this project is very much at the heart of all of that. And just talking about, you know, investment in jobs and opportunities that leads again very nicely into the social and economic legacy for the project which I mentioned earlier. And that's actually one of our eight overarching project objectives. 

 Ella Sanders 

That's great, thank you Paul. So social value we know is really high on the agenda for many local authorities and it has been for a considerable number of years now. With the introduction of the PPN/06 notice we're seeing that this is now being mandated, but of course, as you've just took us through there Paul, this has been at the heart of the Our Town Hall project since its inception. That has really brought to life by some of the project objectives that you spoke about there and the five key themes as well. Dan, could you build upon what Paul was saying there and how we've approached this as a project team on the town Hall? 

Dan Cadman 

Yeah, I can do. Social value is at the heart of the Our Manchester strategy and it's at the heart of everything the City Council is undertaken at all of their capital projects and has been for many years and the they've been leading the way on social value for a long time and the Our Town Hall project is really an exemplar of all that historical work that the city is donebrought into one place and really taking it to the next level. 

So for our project perspective the whole delivery team are involved so that the City team itselfthe design team, quantity surveyors, the project managers, the management contract term, and the trades contractors were all in it together to do as much as we can to enhance the social value objectives of the project. We are all focused on what we can do for Manchester and for the City of Manchester and all the objectives are structured to maximize the benefitsthey're all interrelated and they work together and they feed into each other. And so, some examples of KPIs that we've got on the project in relation to social value; we're looking at targeting and 30% of people working on the projects are being Manchester registered residents from local Manchester postcodes. This is really to assist the challenges that Manchester faces from a social and economic background. And to ensure that the investment that the city is putting in is being really is rewarding and going back to the people of Manchester itself. 

A couple of other objectives that we're trying to achieve; we're looking to ensure 40% of the project spend is within MCC postcodes to benefit local business50% of project spend within the Greater Manchester Area. And it has to be said, actually, that those are the baseline targets, and we also have stretch targets to achieve better than that - and at the moment, we're actually, pretty much across the board on all of our objectiveswe're going that one step further and achieving those stretch targets and in some instances exceeding them. And that's because of how all the different parties involved pulling together and really taking this on board and driving it. 

I suppose the last point I’d make is around apprentices. So the project's been running for four years today, and we've had 34 apprentices go through so far. And that's primarily focused on the sort of design elements in the first couple of years – we are starting construction now, we're just getting into it, so over the next four years we hope to, by the end of the project, have put over 100 apprentices through this project. So, it is a really fantastic opportunity for those that come on board as an apprentice. 

Ella Sanders 

Dylan would be really great if we could hear from you at this point and understand your perspectivebeing an apprentice, going through the scheme on the Our Town Hall project. Because of course this is how you ended up working with F+G, and I'd love to hear about how you became an integral member. 

Dylan Pritchard 

Erm, yeah, so sort of four years ago, before I joined both the Town Hall project and sort of F+G I spent sort of three years doing what you would call a typical apprenticeship. So the first year was the apprenticeship half and then after that I sort of gained, I gained employment and then did that for another two years. 

Doing that for the three years, I kept started trying to get different challenges and trying to progress, and I just kept started getting door shutting my face in a sense and it just felt like there wasn't the opportunities there to keep progressing and keep striving for more challenges. And after the three years, well, 3 1/2 years I felt sort of thaI was at a stage where I'd sort of capped myself and I was a bit snookered and that I couldn't get any further. And sort through school and I didn't do great and then college I sort of picked myself up and did a little bit better, but then it was kind of like at that levelI couldn't go any further like I was at a college level and that was it. What I was doing at that point in time was, as far as I was going to get. And then I just thought I'm gonna have to try and branch out and see what's out there and that's when I came across the gov.uk application process and it was mainly because my sister had done it in two years prior. 

Yeah, then she sort of mentioned that this is what I was doing’ and you know what she achieved in that period of time. And I thought, yeah I could. I want that and although I had, because of the previous experience I had with the apprenticeships, I was really sort of my confidence in them were bit low and I thought I don't really want to be like that and I go through all that time and then I'm stuck in the same position as I was you know, for the last three years. But once I got onto the project after sort of doing the interview process and getting on, then my perception of the process and the apprenticeship system sort of flipped for me. Uh, because it was a different, it was completely different mindset, well process and mindset was different. And so in sort of the old one, you were kind of like a cog in the machine and but this one it reallythey really pushed yourself to be responsible for things and they really cared about your opinion as well and you were really an integral part of the process of the Town Hall and it was fantastic. And it was, the whole process was a two year, the scheme itself was a two year rolling placement and we had six companies. And so, we had; quantity surveying, we had sort of MEP - so mechanical electrical engineering, we had structural engineering, we had project managementwe had architecture and we had landscape architecture. And I came in under the landscape architects originallybecause at each sort of company had to take on an apprentice and that was sort of your host employer, and then we did the rounds and it was sort of four months at each one and then at the end you kind of, you know you start to see what you like and what you want to do as a career and so I've given that opportunity to work with people at both sort of senior levels and well director levels as well - it was really great seeing that I could get to them positions and sort of the process to get to them positions was, not relatively easy but, doable. Whereas before I was getting sort of doors shut in my face for whatever reason and this, it seemed itmore fluid, should I say? And it would just fantastic experience overall. 

Ella Sanders 

That's fantastic Dylan,  I think we can obviously hear from what you're saying that this opportunity really kickstarted your career, but would you say, this might be a little bit leading, would you say it's accelerated your career? 

Dylan Pritchard 

Yeah, definitely I'm because I supposed to start off. 

You would never have caught me in uni. After I did my college I would kinda like, right? I'm not doing education ever again. I you know I can't. I, I just don't feel it's me. Uhm, but no I've joined F+G so I tried my apprenticeship got me hit Jin CMU NVQ UM and then have now joined F+G and I'm doing my degree apprenticeship so I'm in uni which you would never can't be doingAnd actually from that and they want to do my Masters. And then ideally, if I get the opportunity, I do want to do my PhD at some point. And and then also as I was talking about before, the, UM, the sort of leadership process, 'cause ideally I've always wanted to sort of lead a team or be in that sort of position and and then having my line manager Sarah and watching a level of progression and seeing how she got there. It really sort of inspired me to know that. And in charge just give me that drive to know that I can do that if I you know put the graft in and know that I'm not going to get these doors shut in my face that they. Always that ability to get there and and so I still work full time on the Turner project, which is fantastic because after the first two years you you start to get this. It's just like a strange sort of sense of loyalty, right? And almost like you don't want to leave because it's yours. It's your project, you know it's a.  

It's it's really weird for me'cause it was kind of like I. I don't want to leave. I really want to stay on and keep going and see it through to the end. 

Paul Candelent 

Could I just jump in there? I think just listening to what Dylan saying. Then you can really see the passion in Dylan. Will he rather hear the passion in Dylan’s voice for how he feels about the apprenticeship scheme and also about the projects? And I think that's one of the key reasons why this apprenticeship scheme is working so well for us and for the apprentices. I mean, it goes without saying that, you know. We have to be fortunate enough to attract the right raw material you know. And Dylan is a great example of somebody who's talented and there's natural ability. But equally, there's something about the project and about the ambition to give something back that I was talking about before that, I think has really fired the enthusiasm across the whole team and that passion to make things happen for young people. Who are, you know, going to make their way in the industry?  

It's almost tangible. There's a massive amount of pride in working on the project anyway. But I think that stems not just from the amazing building itself, but also from that opportunity to give something back, you know, because let's face it, it feels good. And I, I think we're seeing it happen now, not just in the consultant team, which was where we started, but that enthusiasm and that opportunity is now starting to play out across the wider supply chain. As we move deeper into construction. And it, you know, it. It's a phenomenally rewarding thing to see. 

 Ella Sanders 

Well, I think you've touched on it slightly there, but if you could just build on that fair though, why is it so important for apprentice apprentices for you to play such a big part in delivering this project and restoring this, you know truly cultural asset for the city. 

 Paul Candelent 

As I said before, social value is a is a big part of what we're trying to do with the project and. You know social value for us is not just going to be a byproduct, it's actually one of the drivers. It's what will for us be a measure of success or failure in the project and the apprenticeship scheme is just one part of a number of different social value initiatives for the project, most of which are specifically focused on opening opportunities for Manchester residents. And in particular, those who perhaps traditionally might not see construction as their first choice of career, or perhaps might find it difficult to access opportunities in education and work that lead to a career in construction through more traditional route. It's and you know construction has an incredible range of careers. 

If you know where to look, and that's the key thing you know. If you know what's there, consultancy, project management, architecture, engineering, surveying and so on. If you know what's there, there are fantastic opportunities but many of our kids don't know where to look, and frankly, our research with local schools demonstrated towards pretty early on that that many headteachers in the city just do not and did not see construction trades or construction professions as a career for their brightest kids. And we wanted to do something about that, but it was also important that it was sustainable. 

And what I mean by that is that six years from now we're going to have people like Dylan who've established a career in construction and are making their way in the construction in a way that's sustainable and lives beyond the life of the project. And that's why that apprenticeship platform. Is such an important part of the project for us it gives. It gives the apprentices, as Dylan alluded to, a full round of real appreciation from those rotations with a different employee. There's a full experience across various disciplines that they can make sound well considered.  

Career choices on that will be sustainable, and that's just absolutely brilliant, and I think from a personal perspective I'm firmly of the view that apprentices like Dylan and the others that we're working with. They're going to be much, much better value for their employers. Than your average graduate trainee fresh out of college, you know they've got real world hands on experience and a mature. I would say that can only come from being in the workplace, and again that goes to that whole thing about building sustainable careers. Really important parts of the project. 

Ella Sanders 

Really great insight from that. Are you there, Paul, done from your perspective, what do you think has enabled success today on the project? 

Dan Cadman 

The prices have really played a huge part in delivering the scheme and the opportunities that they've been given to trial. A career that is Dylan talked about earlier into. Instead of finding the right fit for him as he came on as a landscape architect initially and then found out that quantity surveying was the best fit, I think that's really unique to this this project and. I think the other thing that is is fairly unusual and Dylan touched on this as well is the exposure and the ability to fit into at all levels in the project, so I'll give you an example of what I mean by that for very early on in the project, and when we initially started and we were very keen for the apprentices to not be sort of buried in the in the in the day-to-day roles within their organisations, but get experience at all the way to the top level in terms of strategic decision making on the project. 

So that would mean when coming to to meetings with the project director. So we Blacks up all the lights myself and direct us from the other big. This is I'm really seeing what was going on, and as that established overtime and it actually went beyond just attending and shadowing people that they're working with to actually really getting involved in leading, and I think that's what you really unique to this project is. We've given all of our apprentices the opportunity to get as involved as they want to at any level. And really get that exposure to those really senior people, not.  

I think that is a little bit different. We sort of broke down those traditional barriers that you sometimes see on other projects and I think it would be other advantages of this process and particularly Dylan and Dylan's been instrumental in advancing our social value delivery and also helping us with innovation, and so one of the challenges we faced on this contract and is because of the nature of the form of contract cost. Certainty forms is a real challenge. From the outset, and we've tried and tested a number of different approaches across the project to improve cash surety looking at Target value design and looking at heavy focus on the status of costs and design with packages and package criticality and and we've tried different things to try and improve how reporting on that. And from the outset, the project was set up to to support these new approaches and I think you know, Dylan really helped in achieving what we've done on that, and he's been instrumental, particularly from there, from a cost reporting perspective on how we did it and really helped us. Some of the things that I think is really helpful on this project is our project charter and which requires all of the parties on the projects work together.   

We're actually instilled at the start of the project and a charter that was based on a good faith principle, which means being fair and honest and reasonable and always working together for the best for project. For all four, a best for project outcome. So really building on sort of philosophies of the Owl Manchester strategy 

What's best for the city and then distilling that down into the project itself, and I think this is really coming home to roostI'm really seeing examples of it, so every project team member from our security guards with the first people that we agree every day when we go on site and then kicking us all safe all the way through to the special and painting Conservatives that have signed the project Charter. We're all in it together. 

Ella Sanders 

What do you think it is about the project Charter pool that allows for this level of inclusivity to be successful, and what were the drivers behind creating it as well? 

Paul Candelent 

But I suppose the easy answer is, is everyone really bought into it and part of the reason for that, I think, is that the Charter was developed by the team. It wasn't something that the Council imposed upon the teamI mean, we knew right from the start. Of course, that real collaboration was going to be critical to succeeding on a project of the kind of complexity we're talking about on our town Hall. But we wanted to invite the team to develop their own version of what that collaboration would look like, and that's what evolved very early on project charterThe charter, in turn as Dan has said, has been embedded into all supply chain contracts and so that each new entrant to the project can be clear on what's expected of them in terms of how they work in the project environment and how collaboration mechanisms work. But there are two sides to it, you know there are the formal processes and and contract. Mechanisms and they do set out the expected behaviors, of course, but what really makes it work? I think, are the human relationships across the team now. We've spoken a couple of times today about the passion for the project and that of course is a very human emotion, but I think it is genuinely shared across the whole team. And when you've got that level of real personal commitment from individuals you you can achieve an awful lot. And by way of a few practical examples, we've got a collaboration panel which is made up from all of the partners working on the project. It in its objective really is to ensure that we're all living the values set out in the project.  

But it provides a forum up away from the sort of heat at the coalface if you like, in which issues that are perhaps sometimes challenging can be openly shared and collectively resolved, and everyone is invited to speak. 

You know, every voice is heard from the largest part on the project then lease all the way down to the smallest individual subcontractor when it's appropriate and we've got several examples from the project where director level individuals again away from the coalface are discussing issues that are proving problematic on site and they're helping each other to solve those issues between themAnd that's just something that doesn't ordinarily happen on construction sites, and I think that's a real example of where those values are coming into into play and from the outset, we've worked really hard to ensure that all members of that supply chain have got a line of sight through to the client team as wellYou know, we were very conscious when we set this project up that a lot of smaller contractors, particularly types of artists and craftspeople that work on this project would be very nervous about working for large tier one contracting organizations and the way to get over that was to give them that line of sight and that relationship with the client team. But it also gives us the opportunity as a client to show that we are also living and breathing those collaboration values, and I suppose rounding back where I started. That's why it works. It's because we all believe in it and we will make it work. 

Ella Sanders 

I wonder whether Dan and Dylan you could both share some of your real life examples of where this Charter has come into play with on the project as well. 

Dan Cadman 

Yeah, I, I think there's a couple from me. Really, I mean one and relates back to the almost approach that we talked about earlier and we've embedded in our project charter as well. 

And it's about here every voice and all touched on it there the collaboration panel somewhere we have a monthly meeting where the leaders of all the businesses come together and talk about was working what is and what can we do better? And bit like a traditional lesson learned, but on a rolling. Basis and a live basis, and I think one of the things that came out that for me, an example of one of the recent meetings is that that one of our partners basically stated that they've never, ever seen and have this level of access and collaboration with the client and the consultant team.  

So this is from a trade partner on one of the work packages and I think the statement really gave an insight into the access that Paul was talking about there that everybody has to each other in that fostering respect and inclusion on the projectSo we really do live that value of hear every voice on it. I think that's a great example. And I think another example I'm touching back on the social value aspect that we thought about earlier is really giving excellent and we're really building on the legacy of Manchester and focus on social value on capital projects historically. And really pushing that forward and stretching that on this project and I think it's in the front of everyone's mind, and that's why we're currently expecting to exceed our commitments in almost all areas. So I think that is a real example of achieving excellence on the project. 

 Dylan Pritchard 

I think another one to add to that as well is and it's one that's sort of really stuck with me. 

And is it links with sort of the collaboration and sort of the way we respect each other in the office. And because the way the office was set up and it was set up on purpose to be like this is that you would have sort of all your desks and you could. Like I would sit down and I would. Shot in front of you know the director at Mace with the project managers, but then to the right of me I would have the senior architect and then in front of the senior architect would be another apprentice and then the side of The Apprentice to be somebody else. It was very collaborative and it was more like we weren't separate organisations. But we're just all one. So trying to achieve a common goal and I think that really it helped me personally, uhm, sort of with my communication skills and you know you you could overhear what conversations people were having and how they were approaching each other and you know it was really good for me and it's really helped with my communication skills overall and all that. 

Ella Sanders 

Paul, I think this might be a tough question for you, but do you have one thing that you're particularly proud of at the town Hall projects that you'd like to close this episode on? 

Paul Candelent 

There's a lot of things that I'm really proud of on the projects, actually, but I suppose in the particular context of the discussion today, I'll probably pick the way that we've structured the contracts for real collaboration across the whole team. The management contract, for example, was a new contract form a new procurement form for the city and and in that senseThe way that it allocates resting in the client team and the client body holds the risk in a way that's much bigger than it traditionally beenThe case for council projectsThat was a change of mindset. It would have been so easy for the Council to litter that contract with all sorts of amendments that transfer risk or to try and push it back towards something. More familiar to the CouncilBut that of course would have completely undermined that the collaborative platform that we wanted for the project.  

So instead the JCC contract form is largely an amended and we've got model works package contracts in a very simple form that recognizes the unique nature of many of the artisan craft businesses that make up a large part of our supply chain. And I'm actually really proud that the Council had the courage to do something different on its biggest ever capital project and its most publicly visible capital project. They had the courage to make that change. And that we've been able to show the leadership that's built a platform of trust on which collaboration can really work. And I think it's a measure of the way that it's working, that the actual word collaboration itself is is such a part of the common language on the project. Now that you probably hear it get said several times a week, you know it. It literally is something that underpins every everything. There was a team and I think that's definitely something to take pride in. 

 Ella Sanders 

Thank you for that PaulSo as you just said, there obviously collaboration and I think as well. From what I've heard today, collective responsibility of both key themes that have cropped up continue. Like, uh, when we're talking about the our town Hall project and that's been enabled through the setup of the project and the contracts as well.  

What I'd really like to close this episode by saying is that for me, it's the fact that the project has given people of Manchester the opportunity to Excel and really begin to reach their full potential, whether that be part of the. Apprenticeship scheme like Dylan S. Or whether you're a professionally qualified member of the team like done for example, and the project's ability to do this, and the impact that it's had on people's lives. I don't think can be underestimated and I think from what Dylan provided us with today has given us an immense insight into what that has meant for him.  

So I I'd like to thank you all for joining us today and all of our guests for listening, and we hope that we that you join us again on Inside Fgould. Thank you very much. 

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