Civil service jobs to leave Whitehall for suburbs

Written by Winnie Agbonlahor on 6 October 2014 in News

Civil servants could see their offices move from central London to outer suburbs under plans to further shrink the government’s presence on Whitehall, it was announced last week.

Under the One Public Estate (OPE) programme, the government has sold buildings such as the Old War Office on Whitehall (pictured) and many departments and agencies have already started to co-locate since 2010, cutting the number of central London government offices from 185 in 2010 to 75.

Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude has now announced that he wants to get this number down to 23 buildings shortly after 2020, as part of the government’s new estate strategy.

Announcing the new strategy on 3 October, Maude said the move is part of this government’s “long-term economic plan [to cut] waste to save taxpayers millions.”

He added that the surplus space would be released for housing and business.

Measures will include moving departments away from expensive Whitehall accommodation into the outer London boroughs, according to the press release, which cites the example of the Home Office running a major satellite office in Croydon and the Ministry of Justice trialling a mini-commuter hub created by the Cabinet Office.

“Moving half of London-based civil servants away from Whitehall could save taxpayers billions by 2030,” the release continues, adding that “it costs £35,000 per year to base someone in Ministry of Defence Whitehall headquarters, compared to £3,000 at the UK Visas and Immigration offices in Croydon.”

The strategy says it seeks to “remove artificial boundaries between departments, local authorities and other publish bodies, and work in ways that minimise [government’s] need for office space” as well as achieving a culture change in the civil service to support desk-sharing, working from home and mobile working.

The document also says: “We are developing ‘One Civil Service’ offices across the country, where different organisations can share the same space.

“One example of this is the Temple Quay Campus in Bristol, which involved discussions with 12 departments and 28 agencies to bring them together in modern, efficient and flexible space.

“The project will reduce the dozens of buildings we had in Bristol in 2010 to only 18 by 2020.

“Similarly, in Liverpool we are moving from 47 buildings in 2010 to 17 by 2020.”

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Tom (not verified)

Submitted on 6 October, 2014 - 15:48
Francis Maude says "it costs £35,000 per year to base someone in Ministry of Defence Whitehall headquarters, compared to £3,000 at the UK Visas and Immigration offices in Croydon" I wonder how much of this cost is because it is the Ministry of Defence, rather than because it is in Whitehall? I'm going to take a wild guess that this is yet another example of dodgey statistics and meaningless numbers. One has to wonder if these guys know someone who knows someone who might be interested in acquiring these central London buildings for, er, 'housing and businesses'. Not suggesting anything underhand of course - just .... y'know.

Dave Lewis (not verified)

Submitted on 6 October, 2014 - 16:13
I would love to see the justification for office accomodation in the MoD main building in Whitehall being 10 times that of an equivalent office space in Croydon considering that the government actually owns the freehold of the building already. Sounds like inventive accounting to me.

Mark C (not verified)

Submitted on 17 October, 2014 - 15:53
I support the move out of Central London but this should be led by some positive steps from the top through Parliamentary efficiencies. Is it practical for the centre of Government to continue to be in London or could we follow other countries who have moved their Parliamentary core away from the capital?

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