The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is spending £20.4m on upgrading new digs for its staff as it prepares to sell off its 1 Victoria Street headquarters.
The Cabinet Office, which sponsors the Government Property Agency, got the go-ahead in March to spend £20.4m to refurbish government-owned buildings at the north end of Whitehall, which will become BEIS’s new HQ when 1 Victoria is vacated at the end of next year.
The sell-off is part of a cost-saving effort to reduce the overall size of the Whitehall estate. It will contribute to the Government Property Strategy, which sets out plans to sell off 20 Whitehall buildings – up from 16 in the previous strategy – in a bid to save the taxpayer £1.5bn.
The plan, which was announced last week, aims to save a further £500m by reducing operating costs.
The Cabinet Office did not give details of the refurb works for the new BEIS HQ. However, a May announcement about the 1 Victoria office closure noted that the new sites would be linked to the Whitehall Heat Network, which uses energy-efficient heat pumps, and would have LED lighting installed.
Overall, the move out of 1 Victoria is expected to save £5m a year.
Announcing the property strategy last week, government efficiency minister Jacob Rees-Mogg said “expensive office space in London” was being “underutilised” and that cutting the size of the public estate would save money.
Rees-Mogg, who has been extremely critical of hybrid working, also questioned why taxpayers should be “made to fork out for half-empty buildings”.
The latest office occupancy stats show the 1 Victoria site was at around 52% of its full capacity as of the week beginning 22 August.
As well as the refurbished buildings, BEIS staff will have access to other government offices in and outside London.