August 8, 2023
The UK government has announced it will be scaling back plans for thirty office ‘hubs’ outside of London by 25 percent and letting out surplus floor space to other departments as more civil service workers are choosing to work from home. In 2022 the government’s property strategy highlighted plans to relocate 22,000 posts out of London by 2030, creating 30 new regional ‘government hubs’ as it closes its older offices across the UK. However, currently just over half of that figure have been relocated.
Despite this, the Government Property Agency (GPA), which is overseeing the Senior Civil Service (SCS) relocations, has acknowledged the offices built so far are ‘larger than they originally needed to be’ due to the shift to hybrid working. Because more people now work from home more often, the government has let out surplus floorspace to other government departments, of which MPs and Civil Servants work in office. The GPA has also scaled back future plans for hubs, making them 25 percent smaller.
The news came as MPs from the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) criticised the Cabinet Office for a ‘striking’ lack of information on the design and rationale behind the programme. The committee accused the government of withholding key measurements for success and exaggerating its achievements. A Cabinet Office spokesperson said the Places for Growth programme was levelling up the country, with over 12,000 roles moved out of Greater London in its first three years.
Although, PACAC chair, William Wragg said the committee was concerned that despite apparent steady progress towards targets, evidence indicated since 2010 there had been a net decrease in civil service jobs created outside the capital while SCS jobs in London had been created faster than elsewhere.
Wragg said: ‘The government’s latest plans have involved closing long-established regional offices, which can have hard-hitting impacts on local communities. This flies in the face of the government’s levelling up agenda. The lack of consistency in relation to relocating civil service jobs reveals a vagueness at the heart of a key plank of the government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda.’