HMRC signs Cardiff deal for controversial regional hubs scheme
Agreement will also see civil servants from several other departments relocate to the new office
Cardiff is the latest city to provide office space for the 'Government Hubs' programme. Credit: Adobe
HM Revenue and Customs has agreed the latest deal in its drive to create 13 regional hubs across the UK, signing a lease for office space in Cardiff.
The department and the Cabinet Office have agreed a 25-year lease covering 265,000 square feet in the new Central Square development, where tenants will also include BBC Cymru Wales, Hugh James Solicitors and Cardiff University’s School of Journalism.
In total, more than 4,000 civil servants from different departments are to move to new offices in central Cardiff by 2020 as part of a government move to shift civil servants to regional hubs across the country.
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The drive is being spearheaded by HMRC, which has set out proposals to shut 170 offices and replace them with 13 regional centres.
However, a report from the Public Accounts Committee released in April urged HMRC to reconsider these plans, suggesting that savings would be lower than predicted, and the strategy would impact negatively on local employment.
Jon Thompson, HMRC chief executive, said the agreement demonstrates government's long-term commitment to Wales, and was part of the department's transformation into a digitally advanced tax authority.
"It’s the beginning of a process that will see around 3,600 colleagues come together in state-of-the art facilities, enabling closer working relationships and increasing our effectiveness in collecting taxes," he said. "It will also make HMRC an important contributor to the economy and to communities in and around Cardiff.”
Overall, the government hubs programme is intended to slash the number of government buildings from 800 to 200 and save more than £1bn by 2022. The Government Property Unit said the moves were also part of the government’s commitment to build a strong civil service outside of London, and would encourage greater collaboration by bringing several departments to work together in one building.
According to the government announcement, the Cardiff hub deal is the largest ever pre-let in the Welsh capital, and will deliver millions of pounds of savings by consolidating office space in Wales.
All new hubs will allow smart working, enabling civil servants to work more flexibly, it continues.
Caroline Nokes, the Cabinet Office minister for government resilience and efficiency, said the deal is an important step towards the government’s commitment to “delivering the best quality public services in every corner of the UK”.
Alun Cairns, the Welsh secretary, said: “The UK government already has a significant footprint in Wales and I believe that basing several departments in a single office in the centre of Cardiff demonstrates the impact we can make through greater collaboration.
“This will not only lead to better integration between departments and create an obvious cost-saving for the taxpayer, but will also send a clear message that the UK government is visible, accessible and helping to improve people’s lives in Wales.”
The agreement comes after the Government Property Unit signed a 20-year lease on the New Waverley buildings in Edinburgh city centre in July, to which 3,000 Scottish civil servants will relocate in 2020.
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