Government to slash its offices by 75% and require councils to report on property assets

The government plans to slash its total number of offices from 800 to 200 by 2023, releasing surplus premises for sale, re-use and redevelopment.

Cabinet Office minister Matt Hancock announced the move at the launch of this year’s State of the Estate 2014-2015 report, which sets out government progress in consolidating and modernising its estate.

The report shows that the government estate has shrunk by 2.4m sq m since 2010 – a 22% reduction. This brings the total central government estate below 5,000 holdings for the first time. In central London the number of government offices has fallen from 181 in 2010 to 54 today. The intention is to reduce this to around 20 buildings by 2025. The sell-off forms part of the government’s plan to save over £2bn over the next 10 years by rationalising its office estate.

The minister also said that under the Housing and Planning Bill local authorities will be required to report on their assets in a similar way. This reporting includes a requirement to publish information on surplus assets that they have retained for longer than two years (six months for housing) and to give a reason for doing so.

The State of the Estate report also says:

  • The size of the government estate fell by 300,000sq m in the past year, with running costs also reduced by 9% (£279m) compared to the previous year
  • £842m was saved in 2014 to 2015 by selling empty buildings and exiting rentals
  • Estate running costs have been cut by 28% since 2010
  • Space occupied per government employee has reduced by 20% since 2010 to 10.4sq m, less than the UK private sector average of 10.7sq m
  • Carbon emissions have been cut by 22% since 2010 and water consumption has dropped by 11%.

Minister for the Cabinet Office and paymaster general Matt Hancock said: “Today’s report shows the progress we’ve made in creating a more modern and efficient estate, with £1.8bn already saved for taxpayers. But there is still a lot more we can do. That’s why I’m calling on people across the country to get involved by challenging us through the Right to Contest scheme to release properties we’re not using efficiently enough”.

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