Page last updated at 23:31 GMT, Wednesday, 21 May 2008 00:31 UK

Government offices 'waste 325m'

Whitehall departments must be more efficient, the committee says

More than 325m a year is being wasted by government departments through inefficient use of office space, MPs have said.

The Commons public accounts committee recommended more civil servants should be relocated from London to cut costs.

It said the Treasury was spending the most on employees' workspace and urged it to "set a better example".

The Treasury said occupancy of its main building had increased since the figures were compiled.

In its report, the committee found the public sector - not including the military - spent around 6bn running offices for 188,000 staff in 2005.

'Less efficient'

Central government accounted for about 1bn.

The public sector overall was between 14% and 50% less efficient than the private sector at doing the job, the committee said.

Costs varied, with each employee's workspace at the Treasury costing 12,000 a year, compared with just over 2,500 at the Department for Children, Schools and Families.

Costs per square metre ranged from 123 to 636 and the amount of space allocated to each employee varied from 13.3 to 21.9 square metres, against a target of just 12.

The assumption that staff have to be in London should always be challenged
Edward Leigh MP
More than a quarter of central government office staff - some 47,000 employees - continue to be located in the capital, said the report.

The committee's chairman, Conservative MP Edward Leigh, said: "Government departments are under pressure to increase the value for money of their office property by reducing accommodation costs and improving the efficiency with which they use their space.

"There is big room for improvement, given the markedly poor performance of government buildings in these respects compared with the private sector, with a potential 326m to be saved each year."


He added: "The relocation of staff to cheaper areas outside London, while it can give rise to costs, can save money. The assumption that staff have to be in London should always be challenged."

Shadow Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude said separate research by the Conservatives indicated there was 500,000 square metres of empty space across the buildings of Whitehall - twice the amount two years ago.

Mr Maude said it was "yet another sign of how taxpayers' money isn't going to frontline public services, but is wasted".

A Treasury spokesman said: "Increased occupancy of the Treasury building has occurred since the report was compiled following OGC's (Office of Government Commerce) re-location into 1 Horseguards Road.

"The Treasury building can never be as efficient as modern office space due to its listed status and the structural constraints inherent in it."

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