Matt Hancock today revealed that the government has reduced the size of its estate by the equivalent of 336 football pitches since 2010. He has called on local authorities to increase transparency by publishing their own estate rationalisation data.
The minister was speaking at the Government Property 2016 Conference, where he launched the latest State of the Estate report outlining the government’s progress in consolidating and modernising its estate. The report shows that the government estate has shrunk by 2.4 million square metres since 2010 – a 22% reduction equivalent to 336 football pitches, 43 Shards, or more than the entire principality of Monaco. This means that the total central government estate has fallen below 5,000 holdings for the first time and could fit inside the area of West Finchley.
This has been achieved by selling underused property ranging from the historic Old War Office to an old bakery and lighthouse. It was also formally announced today that Blythe House, which is well known as the MI6 HQ in the award winning film Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and a historic site with great commercial potential at the Liverpool Docks will be sold and put to better use.
This forms part of the government’s determination to save over £2 billion over the next 10 years by rationalising its office estate. It was also announced by the minister today that the government plans to reduce its total number of offices by 75% before 2023, moving from 800 to 200 offices.
Nowhere is this change more visible than in central London, where today’s report confirmed that the number of government offices has fallen from 181 in 2010 to just 54 today. The intention is to further reduce this number to around 20 buildings by 2025.
Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General Matt Hancock said:
We have a laser focus on cutting the deficit, supporting growth and providing more houses. To that end, we’re determined to release property the government no longer needs and get out of expensive rentals that aren’t offering value for money.
Today’s report shows the progress we’ve made in creating a more modern and efficient estate, with £1.8 billion 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.
The minister also revealed today that through the Housing and Planning Bill, local authorities would be required, for the first time, to report on their assets in a similar fashion. This will increase transparency by showing the public how they are rationalising their estates, with this helping councils deliver savings by making better use of empty buildings and freeing up brownfield sites to build more homes. This reporting includes a requirement to publish information on surplus assets that they have retained for longer than 2 years (6 months for housing) and to give a reason for doing so.
Today’s State of the Estate report also shows that:
- the size of the government estate fell by 300,000 square metres in the past year, with running costs also reduced by 9% (or £279 million) compared to the previous year
- we saved a total of £842 million in 2014 to 2015 by selling empty buildings and exiting expensive rentals
- we have reduced the cost of running the estate by 28% since 2010
- the space per government employee has reduced by 20% since 2010, making it more efficient than the UK private sector average of 10.7 square metres – this means that with an average space of 10.4 square metres, each employee has a working space equivalent to 10% of an average UK family home
- we have cut carbon emissions by 22% since 2010, along with an 11% drop in water consumption and a 38% reduction in paper use
- the size of the estate varies markedly by department – while the Cabinet Office’s estate measures 100,000 square metres, the Department for Work and Pensions’ estate measures 1,600,000 given the large number of job centres throughout the country
Notes to editors
- The Cabinet Office’s Government Property Unit (GPU) formed in 2010 has central oversight over all government land and property, and works collaboratively across the Civil Service
- Taxpayers still own over £300 billion worth of land and buildings (latest Whole of Government Accounts: 2013 to 2014), with the Ministry of Defence alone owning approximately 1% of all UK land (227,300 hectares and roughly equivalent to 318,347 football pitches)
- The Right to Contest allows applicants to complete a short form giving details of the site and their reasons for it being released. Cases are then only rejected if departments can demonstrate that the site is vital for operational purposes or that alternative considerations outweigh the potential for better economic use
- The Government Property Finder tool maps the government’s estate