Ministers and staff at the Department for Communities and Local Government have this week moved in with the Home Office, in a move to save taxpayers hundreds of millions of pounds.
Local Government Secretary, Eric Pickles, ordered his department’s relocation from its Eland House office in Victoria, returning to Marsham Street to share the Home Office’s headquarters in Westminster. The National Audit Office has noted that the DCLG move will save taxpayers an estimated £220 million over the remaining lifetime of the private finance initiative contract.
Marsham Street was once the home of DCLG’s predecessor, the Department of the Environment. The department was moved in 1997 to become John Prescott’s DETR (Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions). It was later the home of Stephen Byers’ DTLR (Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions), before becoming the ODPM (Office of the Deputy Prime Minister) and then finally DCLG.
Completed in 1971, the old Marsham Street site had 3 tower blocks nicknamed ‘the 3 ugly sisters’. They were described in Sir Nikolaus Pevsner’s architectural guides as “the very image of faceless bureaucracy”. In 1992, Environment Secretary, Michael Heseltine, resolved to bulldoze the unsuitable and dysfunctional concrete towers.
The government subsequently resolved to put in its place a purpose-built private finance initiative building for the Home Office, completed in 2005. By moving in, DCLG saves taxpayers from having to pay the costs of its current Eland House site.
Meanwhile, Eland House is being redeveloped into extensive shops and offices as part of the ongoing regeneration of the Victoria area of London. The new shop development has been nicknamed by some as the ‘Pickles Plaza’.
Since he was appointed in 2010, Mr Pickles has waged war on waste at Eland House, include clamping down on corporate credit cards, scrapping the potted plant budget, and calling last orders at the department’s in-house pub, the ‘DETR Darts Bar’. The pot plants have been auctioned off, and the luxury, designer Parisian sofas purchased in 2009 will be reused elsewhere in government.
The departmental portrait of Her Majesty the Queen is being put up in the reception area. The department intends to continue its practice of championing the flying of Britain’s varied local and national flags to show pride in the United Kingdom’s heritage and tradition.
Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, said:
There is still immense inefficiency across the public sector. By sharing services and streamlining our own back office, we are practising what we preach to town halls by illustrating the scope to save even more taxpayers’ money. And in waving goodbye to the old building which will be turned into new shops and offices, we are also doing our bit to support the exciting regeneration of London’s Victoria.