FCO details costliest embassy operations

Departmental data release breaks down £583m spend on foreign outposts during 2015-16

By Jim Dunton

20 Feb 2017

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has revealed that the British Embassy in Kabul is its most financially draining overseas diplomatic base, with an annual operating cost more than £31m for the last financial year.

Its running costs for the Afghan capital – which include both local and UK staff – are almost as much as those of the Beijing Embassy and Washington Embassy combined.

The figures are contained in a Freedom of Information Act response published by the FCO, which details the costs associated with 230 overseas bases – also including high commissions, and consulates.

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According to the data, the total cost of operations in all 230 locations was £583.2m over the 12 months to April 2016.

After Kabul, where major projects include embedding democracy and strengthening the capacity of the Afghan National Security Forces, Beijing is Britian’s second most expensive embassy. Its running costs for 2015-16 were £18.4m.

Third-placed Washington DC’s running costs were £15.6m for the year.

The FCO’s cheapest overseas location cited was Tangier, which cost £10,000 for the year. The UK’s main base in Morocco is the British Embassy Rabat, which cost £2.2m for the year, the figures show.

An accompanying statement from the department said the figures – literally a single cost for each location – included both income and expenditure, and costs met centrally in London.

“In many cases they also include the cost of hosting other government departments who are co-located with us,” it said.

“Staff costs include wages and salaries, pensions and other [expenses] for UK and locally employed staff.

“Direct costs are inclusive of such items as: estate expenditure; security; vehicle costs; travel, subsistence and allowances; and depreciation.”

The FCO did not reveal who had asked for the data.

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