Plans for Birmingham hub ‘alive and well’

Oliver Dowden confirms commitment to fund third Birmingham hub after “terminating” original plans
Two government hubs have been opened in Birmingham, including on Arena Central (pictured centre-right). Photo: Stephen McCorkell/Alamy

By Tevye Markson

16 Oct 2023

Plans to open a Birmingham hub for civil servants are "alive and well" after previous proposals for the city were abandoned.

Cabinet Office secretary Oliver Dowden confirmed the government's committment to the Birmingham hub in a meeting with West Midlands mayor Andy Street.

Following the meeting, Dowden said he is working with Street to find a location for a new government hub in Birmingham, “housing thousands of civil servants delivering for the people of the West Midlands and boosting local businesses”.

Street said Dowden had confirmed plans for the hub “are alive and well” during the meeting.

The Government Property Agency revealed in its annual report for 2022-23 that the Birmingham 3 hub project was one of two planned hubs that had been "terminated” after a review “identified that they no longer aligned with strategic requirements”.

The GPA incurred a constructive loss of £843,000 by ending the Birmingham 3 hub project, with a further £463,000 written off with the termination of the agency’s Newcastle 2 project.

Street said changed working patterns had led to the government rethinking what kind of office space was needed. Last year GPA chief executive Boyd said future government hubs would need 25% less floorspace because of increased remote and hybrid working accelerated by the Covid pandemic. The GPA has also blamed construction-cost inflation and major changes in the cost of borrowing for the project cancellations. 

Birmingham already has two government hubs: 23 Stephenson Street, which is managed by the GPA, and HM Revenue and Customs’ office at the Arena Central development 500m away.

A new building at the Arena Central development had been earmarked as the site of the third Birmingham hub. While that development will not be going ahead, the GPA had not abandoned the project altogether, saying in August it was looking at different options for a new hub in the city. 

Birmingham 3 is lined up to become a specialist transport office, housing up to 4,000 officials from both the Department for Transport and National Highways – alongside other departments. Birmingham is already home to 27 UK government organisations.

The GPA hopes to open the site between 2027 and 2028, but is still searching for a suitable city-centre location.

A total of 1,902 civil service roles have been moved to the West Midlands since 2018.

Street said civil service relocation had been an important part of the government's "steadfast" commitment to levelling up in the West Midlands.

“I am therefore delighted that the deputy prime minister has confirmed that plans for the "Birmingham 3" hub are alive and well. As you would expect, new working patterns have led to the government rethinking exactly what office space it would need in the region, but the critical point is that this relocation will happen as planned and we will reap the benefits," he said.

“I want to thank Oliver for his ongoing commitment to the West Midlands, and we will continue our work together to bring more civil service roles to the region – as well as ensuring local people have the right skills to win these jobs.”

The government’s hubs programme, led by the GPA, aims to relocate civil servants in new offices, often in city centres, away from smaller, older offices in towns. The programme is targeting the delivery of around 30 hubs by the end of the decade – and potentially up to 50. So far, 17 have opened, according to the government’s latest update in August.

The hubs programme is also closely aligned to the Places for Growth agenda to relocate 22,000 roles away from the capital by 2030. So far, 14,000 roles have moved.

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