Government saves more than £100 million on property this financial year

13 Jan 2012 12:46 PM

Savings from introducing strict property controls and getting a better grip on the property estate are already more than £100 million this financial year, with three months yet to go, Minister for Cabinet Office, Francis Maude, announced yesterday. This exceeds the £90 million saved in 2010/11.
The savings are from the national property controls, which include a requirement for Cabinet Office approval for all new leases and property acquisitions, and surplus buildings being examined for sub-letting or sale. Space is also used more effectively – for example, Cabinet Office staff led the way by moving into the Treasury building earlier this year, which was the first major example of co-location in Whitehall.
The savings come as the Cabinet Office
publishes new data on property as part of the Government’s transparency drive. This information shows the sheer breadth of the central civil estate and includes information on the number, location and size of properties as well as detailed usage statistics – such as space, cost and water and energy consumption per employee.
It is a snapshot of the estate and shows that at 1 September 2011:

  • the estate covered by this data is 16, 411, 676 sq m – almost six times the City of London. This does not include the wider public sector estate or parts of Central Government’s operational estate – such as NHS buildings or schools;
  • this is spread across 13,911 different property holdings;
  • almost one fifth of the estate is in London (17.4%);
  • 40% of the estate is office space, the estate also includes 40 laboratories and 18 museums; and
  • there are 552 vacant property holdings – where possible, these will be marketed and either sub-let or sold, generating income for taxpayers.

Comparative (benchmarked) data, which has been published down to individual property holding level for the first time yesterday, shows that for the financial year 2009/10:

  • the cost of property per employee is similar to the private sector – £4,454 per employee in the public sector, compared to £4,525 in the private sector. The Government is determined to reduce this further, focusing first on the most expensive area - Central London – where it has already made significant progress in reducing its property holdings; and
  • public sector employees have 16% more space per employee than in the private sector – at 13 square metres. However space per employee fluctuates widely across the estate – suggesting that many buildings could be run more efficiently.

Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude, said:

We are getting a grip on the Government estate – introducing greater  transparency has not only shown the true scale of what we own or lease, it  has enabled us to see the scope for savings and to push ahead with making  them. In our determination to find savings for taxpayers, we have introduced tight controls and saved over £100 million in the first nine months of this  financial year."
“We expect even greater savings by the end of this Parliament, as we make better use of space and put an end to the days where the government estate  was bigger, inefficient and went without scrutiny. Governments will always need property, but it can only be right that the public can see what property is  held and how efficiently it is being used.

Luke Nicholson, Director of London-based social enterprise CarbonCulture, said:

Gathering and publishing high-quality data is the first step in making  organisations more efficient. Our real-time energy displays allow anyone in the world to see how much energy is being used in a particular building, updated every five seconds. It’s like crowd-sourcing for sustainability. The process of opening data has already helped cut gas use by up to 10% in one  Whitehall building. Government is making it easier for people like us to help them cut bills by making this data openly accessible.

Lord Carter of Coles, a member of the Government’s Property Advisory Panel, said:

Better data is key to unlocking the enormous potential for savings from the government estate. This data will help build even further on the savings announced today, and publishing it will ensure property remains high on the  efficiency agenda.

The Cabinet Office, working with other government departments, examines vacant space to ensure that where possible it is either sub-let or sold, generating savings for the taxpayer. Work is also underway to examine how public sector employees can make better use of the space they do need - for example by encouraging more innovative, flexible and modern working practices. These measures will reduce not only the costs per employee but also the Government's carbon footprint.

Notes to Editors

1. This is the first time such detailed property data has been published. The data snapshot is from September 2011 and the comparisons on the building spreadsheet  from 09/10 – some changes to the estate may have happened since. The data will now be updated on a regular basis.

2. The data can be found at http://data.gov.uk/dataset/epims

3. The data includes four separate CSV files:
i Property.csv – 13,911 property and land records covering the ownership, address, tenure and size of the central Government property and land records (This includes 55 records held on e-PIMS for Welsh Government at their request).
ii Building.csv  -  7,585 building records covering building type and construction, DEC and EPC details, 2010 benchmarked data covering staff and workstation details, costs, energy, water and waste consumption.
iii Occupation.csv – 15,683 occupation records covering details of both Government and non-Government occupiers against each property record along with net internal area.
iv Vacancy.csv – 634 (552 current and the remainder marked as ‘future’) marketable vacant space records including details of address, vacancy type, date, description and status as at publication date.
4. Each property holding is an office space. In the vast majority of cases this refers to an entire building, however in some cases it may refer to a part of building, such as a floor.
5.  Benchmarked data has previously been published in the 2010 State of the Estate Report but not for individual property holdings

6. CarbonCulture is a London-based social enterprise that helps organisations save energy and engage their people in sustainability. CarbonCulture's realtime energy monitoring is running in eight UK government departments, where it has engaged staff, members of the public and created energy savings. For more information see www.carbonculture.net. See the Cabinet Office's real-time energy use here.