Whitehall overspending on office space is costing taxpayers millions

Published on Wednesday, 17 October 2012 09:59
Written by Scott Buckler

The TaxPayers' Alliance (TPA) can today reveal that Government departments could have saved a potential £112 million on their estates bill if all departments were to use space as well as the most efficient departments

The new TPA research also exposes the vast differences in the amount of office space enjoyed by civil servants with the Cabinet Office using 21.7 m2 per member of staff - nearly five times more than that of the Department for Communities and Local Government.

Departments based primarily in London, such as the Cabinet Office, may not be able to realise the full potential savings, as rents are far more expensive in the capital. Furthermore, departments that may have recently shut down quangos or ceased to operate a particular function may still be in possession of office space that is currently unoccupied. But Ministers at departments paying more than is necessary should urge their officials to learn from those which have secured better value for office space.

The key findings of this research are:

  • Measured by cost per full time equivalent (FTE) staff member, Government departments could have saved a potential £112 million on their estates bill in the final quarter of 2011, if they had matched the cost achieved by the best performing department (HMRC).
  • The Cabinet Office had the highest estates cost per FTE, at £6,301.
  • HMRC was the best performing department, which had estates costs of £1,046 per FTE.The potential saving of the Cabinet Office matching HMRC could be as much as 83 per cent per FTE.
  • The average cost of office space per employee across Government departments was £178 per m2 .The Treasury had the highest estates cost in the last quarter of 2011 at £335 per m2.
  • HMRC had the lowest, at £67 per m2.The Cabinet Office had the most office space per employee, at 21.7 m2 per member of staff.
  • The Department for Communities and Local Government had 4.5 m2 per employee, making it the most efficient user of office space.

Matthew Sinclair, Chief Executive of TaxPayers' Alliance, said:

"Some departments are failing to do what they can to control their office costs. They are using more space and paying more per square metre than other departments which do a better job of getting value for taxpayers' money.

"As ministers continue to look for savings in the public services and ask people to pay such high taxes, they must ensure that the departments they are responsible for manage resources like office space carefully. They need to explain why they think their costs have to be so high or take action. Taxpayers expect to see savings made."

Source: ©TPA

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