By Daniel Hunter
Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude has announced that government departments have raised over £1 billion for the taxpayer since May 2010 by selling property and land no longer required by the Civil Service.
On top of this the government has exited over 1,000 leasehold and PFI properties, saving a further £168m in the first 6 months of 2012/13 financial year alone, by ensuring the government is not paying rent and running costs on space that it doesn’t use or need.
"It’s remarkable that the government was paying for property that it just wasn’t using. That kind of waste is always unacceptable — but is completely unjustifiable when we are trying to reduce the deficit and get ahead in the global race," Francis Maude said.
"In the past Government took out expensive leases at the taxpayer’s expense on new properties even though freehold space was under-used or even empty. Our strategy is to get out of expensive leases and concentrate on the properties we actually own. Since the General Election we have slashed wasteful spend on buildings and negotiated great money making deals. The £1 billion pounds we have saved the taxpayer represents £60 for every working family.
"Now we have reached this milestone, we will push ahead with a new phase of cross-government work to encourage all officials to work more flexibly to reduce our dependency on expensive public sector buildings and save the taxpayer even more."
The work to achieve this figure was centrally coordinated by the Government Property Unit, part of the Cabinet Office’s Efficiency & Reform Group. They worked together with professionals from across government departments to ensure the best deal for the taxpayer.
The next stage of property rationalisation within government is a workplace transformation programme — an integral part of the Civil Service Reform Plan. Innovations such as the introduction of touchdown hubs, like those used during the London Olympics, will improve workplaces and IT making it easier for civil servants to do their job. Co-location buildings that can be shared by teams from multiple departments and public sector bodies, like Temple Quay House in Bristol, will build a more modern and unified Civil Service, able to deliver exceptional public services.
Alongside saving the government and the taxpayer money, many of the once empty properties benefit from a new lease of life through investment. Last month, a study by Knight Frank showed that 14 properties in London exited after May 2010 by the government are delivering over £3bn of stimulus to the local economy.
The £1bn milestone was reached by the sale of St Dunstan’s House in central London, which was previously used by the Ministry of Justice civil servants. It has been bought by Taylor Wimpey Central London, the dedicated central London division of the UK residential developer Taylor Wimpey plc, who has already begun the development of 76 residential apartments on the site.
"We are constantly looking for attractive development opportunities that meet our strict evaluation criteria and enable us to deliver much needed new homes. We believe that St Dunstan’s Court, Fetter Lane will prove to be a successful development for our customers and Taylor Wimpey," Peter Truscott, Divisional Chairman of Taylor Wimpey said.
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