The Cabinet Office has announced that Pat Ritchie, the chief executive of Newcastle City Council, will be the new chair of the Government Property Agency as it ramps up its £1.4bn savings drive.
Ritchie will replace the agency’s first chair, Liz Peace, from January as the agency expands its management of departmental estates. It now manages around £195m worth of property, having taken over responsibility for buildings previously owned by the Cabinet Office, Crown Commercial Service and Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
The GPA is also working with the Ministry of Justice and Department for International Development to take their properties on board. Eventually, it is expected to expand the number of properties it manages from 80 to more than 1,000, and Ritchie will help the agency implement its plan to realise £1.4bn worth of savings over 10 years through more efficient use of the buildings.
Ritchie, who will take up the position alongside her Newcastle City Council role, said the GPA is “having a real impact already by implementing greater commercial thinking to government property” since its launch in March 2018.
“Through revitalising and modernising the public estate we can help drive regeneration and economic growth,” Ritchie said. “I am looking forward to joining the GPA as chair in the new year and would like to thank Liz Peace for her work in establishing the agency. Building on Liz’s legacy, I will bring my own background, experience and knowledge to help continue the GPA’s mission and create a brilliant civil service.”
Mike Parsons, the director general of the Office of Government Property, said he was delighted to welcome Ritchie to the agency. “I am confident that her knowledge and experience will greatly benefit GPA in its important work in managing the property portfolio and ensure civil servants have fit for purpose accommodation that supports smarter working and promotes productivity.”
A key pillar of Ritchie’s job will be overseeing the government hubs programme: the drive to move multiple departments into shared office buildings across the UK both to reduce costs and improve collaboration. The first round focused on HMRC moving staff from 170 current offices into 13 hubs, while the first two locations for the second round – in Peterborough and Birmingham – were announced last week.
The Government Estates Strategy, published last year, set out plans for "around 20” to be hubs, supporting a drive to reduce the office buildings in which central government operates from 800 to around 200. The hubs programme is expected to save an estimated £2.5bn in running costs over 20 years.
GPA chief executive Steven Boyd said of Ritchie’s appointment: “This is an exciting time for the GPA and a great moment for Pat to join us as we move into the second phase of our hubs programme and continue to grow our portfolio of government assets. Pat brings a wealth of knowledge and experience, and I am looking forward to working with her."
Boyd also extended his thanks to Peace, who will step down in December at the end of her fixed-term appointment as chair.
“Under Liz’s leadership and guidance, GPA has set a clear strategy and direction of travel, and we look forward to seeing the momentum that we are beginning to build continue when Pat joins us in January,” he said.