A new report from the Public Accounts Committee has called for the Cabinet Office’s property arm, the Government Property Unit (GPU), to man-up and implement a more centralised approach, which it believes is needed to drive down the costs of running central government office’s property estate.
The Commons Public Accounts Committee’s 11th Report ‘Improving the efficiency of central government office property’ examined plans to improve the efficiency of the central government office estate and identified that current savings, which have largely been achieved by departments working alone, could be dramatically improved with increased collaboration across the estate.
The Rt. Hon Margaret Hodge MP, Chair of the Committee of Public Accounts, claimed the Government Property Unit has not provided the leadership necessary to mandate action across Whitehall, was ‘too passive’ and needed to command ‘greater clout’ to ensure government plans are centralised – making use of the government’s buying power to negotiate better terms with major landlords on a standardised basis, rather than departments doing it building by building.
“Much will depend on the management of the government estate being much more tightly controlled from the centre rather than leaving individual departments to their own devices,” she criticised.
Effectively consolidating the government office estate, the Committee predicts, will lead to the mothballing of unused buildings and it strongly suggested that the government should just ‘get on with selling buildings, rather than holding on in the hope of a future rise in property prices.’
Hodge explained, “Central government offices cost the taxpayer around £1.8 billion a year to run. Progress has been made in recent years to drive costs down, but a more ambitious approach could deliver much bigger savings: more than £800 million a year by 2020.”