By Claire West

Sir Philip Green, founder of retail group Arcadia, has announced the findings of his efficiency review into government spending.

“He comments that £25bn a year is spent on property, but only 6% of the entire estate is overseen by a central team, and as much as 50% could be saved on property and procurement costs,” says Andrew Mawson, managing director of Advanced Workplace Associates

“This is a more stark picture than the one we painted just two months ago, when we estimated that public sector spending on property could be reduced by up to a fifth, and prime city-centre property could move from the public to private sector use, if central Government departments and local authorities adopted more flexible working practices.”

AWA’s estimates were based on changing the way that civil servants work, with the recent introduction of flexible working practices at the Home Office’s head quarters in Westminster.

“Without any loss of people, simply by adopting new ways of working and with its forward-thinking approach, the Home Office has managed to increase the number of staff using its existing headquarters by around 17 per cent. This has allowed the department to dispose of four other buildings in central London, consolidate functions and reduce costs,” says Mawson.

“If this model was rolled throughout central and local government the savings would be immense.”

A detailed review of working practices and adoption of new ways of working at the Home Office’s Marsham Street headquarters has allowed an extra 650 people to work in the building which has 3,800 workstations, generating considerable savings.

The project found a huge discrepancy in prices paid for government accommodation per person and per square metre of space. Average rents also differ greatly between Government Office regions, from £397 in London to £63 in the South West.

Commenting on Sir Philip’s scathing attack on the government’s £38million expenditure on hotel accommodation in London alone, Andrew Mawson said: “There are huge savings to be made using video-conferencing, mobile technologies and internal social networking tools… and a more innovative approach to use of office space: one of our clients has turned part of its building into hotel accommodation for staff who need to stay in town. That’s the kind of lateral thinking that’s called for now.”