Government to sell off £1.5bn worth of civil service offices, Rees-Mogg announces

Government efficiency minister says expensive offices in the capital are "half-empty and under-utilised"
Whitehall. Photo: Claudine Klodien/Alamy

By Tevye Markson

30 Aug 2022

Jacob Rees-Mogg has announced plans to sell off £1.5bn worth of government buildings in London over the next three years.

The plan is part of a government property strategy set to be published tomorrow, which aims to raise £2bn from property sales and other efficiency savings.

The extra £500m would come from reducing operating costs, such as using modern building materials and energy sources, and cutting spend on leases.

Rees-Mogg said the property sale proposals are partly in response to civil servants working less from the office since the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We have seen over the last year that expensive office space in central London has been under-utilised,” the government efficiency minister told the Telegraph.

“Why should the taxpayer be made to fork out for half-empty buildings?”

Rees-Mogg has waged a campaign against home working over the last year, repeatedly urging officials to return to offices more regularly and even leaving notes on empty desks saying "sorry you were out when I visited" earlier this year.

He also ordered departments to monitor occupancy rates at headquarter offices. The latest figures, published last week, show the key 19 department HQs are 44% full on average, with occupancy levels ranging from 30% at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office to 72% at the Ministry of Defence.

The government efficiency minister said reducing office space in London will also help with the government's plan to relocate 22,000 civil service jobs out of the capital by 2030.

“Moving civil servants to our beautiful counties and towns through the Places for Growth programme will benefit everyone, giving civil servants a better quality of life and helping economic growth outside the capital,” Rees-Mogg said.

Those officials who remain in London will be squeezed into fewer buildings, with many working at government hubs.

As part of the property strategy, the government is also pledging to invest £300m to help turn more brownfield sites across England into housing.

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