Civil service chief executive John Manzoni has announced that Mike Parsons, currently a senior civil servant in the Home Office, is to take over as director general of the Government Property Unit.
Parsons takes on the post, which Manzoni said was crucial to reducing the cost of the government estate, ahead of the expected launch of the Government Property Agency next year.
Parsons will join the Cabinet Office agency from 27 November from his post as director general, capabilities and resources, at the Home Office, where he is responsible for all the department’s finances and corporate functions, including estates. He also has experience from local government as director of resources and performance at Hertfordshire County Council and deputy chief executive at Cambridgeshire County Council.
Manzoni said that Parsons brought “a wealth of delivery and cross-Whitehall experience” to the post. “The GPU plays a vital role in helping to optimise and reduce the cost of the government estate working with colleagues across Whitehall and the wider public sector," he added.
Parsons said he was delighted to join the Cabinet Office to lead the government’s estates strategy, supporting the team of estates professionals at GPU. He would also sponsor the shadow Government Property Agency ahead of its expected launch in 2018.
The GPU works with central government departments to drive savings across the government estate. It also works with local authorities through the One Public Estate programme to better integrate local public services and exploit surplus land and property for growth.
It has developed the planned Government Property Agency, which is intended to provide asset management services across the government’s portfolio in order to cut operating costs. The agency will also play a key part in the government's plans to introduce cross-departmental office hubs around the country to achieve economies of scale and enable easier cross-departmental collaboration. The programme is being led by HMRC, with contracts for nine of the 13 regional centres having been signed so far.
However, HMRC chief executive Jon Thompson told MPs on the Public Accounts Committee that the business plan for the GPA was "maturing but had not yet been approved" by the Treasury. Thompson indicated that if the agency was not approved then HMRC would run the 13 regional hubs that it is creating as part of a controversial office closures programme itself, rather than transfer them centrally.