New government estates strategy will see thousands of jobs relocate away from London

estates strategyThe UK Government has announced it latest plans to save around £3.6bn over the next two decades by dramatically scaling back its property estate and relocating thousands of staff as part of its new 12 year estates strategy. The Cabinet Office has outlined the plans to move thousands of public sector jobs, including senior roles, out of London by 2030, reducing Whitehall buildings from around 65 to 20 over the same period. Around 20 so-called Government hubs will be set up in the regions by the end of this parliament in 2022. In total, the strategy commits to reducing the number of government-owned office buildings from 800 to under 200, with an estimated saving of £3.6bn over 20 years.

As part of the objective to boost growth and opportunities nationally, the plans to locate more civil service jobs outside of London are intended to increase “the presence of government and major cultural bodies across the whole of the United Kingdom”.

The estates strategy states that by the end of this Parliament in 2022, “we will use our estate and the location of our civil service to help boost local growth”, but the specific commitment covers a longer time period. It said: “Over the next twelve years we will create the foundations to locate up to a thousand public sector jobs out of London and the surrounding area as a first step of a major, long-term programme which will move many organisations and thousands of jobs, including a full range of professions and senior grades.”

In the first step, public sector jobs will be located “to support the development of at least three specialist clusters in cities across the UK by the end of this Parliament”.

The proposal comes after the Conservative election manifesto pledged to shift more government functions and arm’s-length bodies out to the regions. “We will start moving significant numbers of UK government civil servants and other public servants out of London and the south-east to cities around the UK,” the manifesto stated. The intention to move the posts is also tied to the government’s Industrial Strategy aim to boost development outside London.

An expansion of the hubs programme, which has so far been primarily focused on HMRC moving staff from 170 current offices into 13 hubs (such as the one in Leeds pictured), is planned to support the civil service by providing modern offices and greater flexible working.

Around 20 hubs will be created, according to the new plan, and these will be supported by a network of local mini hubs around the country, with an overall aim to reduce the office buildings in which central government operates from 800 to around 200. This is expected to save an estimated £2.5bn in running costs over 20 years.

In addition, the plan commits to managing the Whitehall estate to create “efficient, fit-for-purpose buildings”. The plan highlights that, from 180 properties in central London in 2010, only 63 remain, and the aim is to reduce this to only 20. These remaining offices in the capital will have “flexible space, shared services and, where the work is not security sensitive, integrated security systems – including a common access pass”.

The strategy’s delivering value strand is focused on better asset management through a more commercial approach, with the newly-formed Government Property Agency to manage both the hubs and the wider government office estate.

Establishing the GPA is expected to deliver £3.6bn of savings over 20 years, according to the plan, with the additional savings made through what civil service chief executive John Manzoni called “a more proactive approach that considers property as a platform for the delivery of government’s wider objectives”.