Better public sector estate use is good news for taxpayers

February 04, 2016 12:16 PM

The latest State of the Estate report shows that the government estate has been reduced by 2.4 million m2 since 2010- an area larger than the state of Monaco.

In just the last year, the government estate has fallen by 3.1 per cent to 8.3 million m2 and the total running costs by an impressive £279 million in real terms – a staggering 9 per cent. Since 2010 total running costs have fallen by 28 per cent, which is a remarkable achievement and excellent news for taxpayers who will undoubtedly be concerned about value for money.

This is possible because the space is being used more efficiently by public sector bodies. Space per person fell by 8 per cent to 10.4 m2 from 11.3m2 and since the 2010 baseline there has been a 20 per cent overall reduction of space per person.

But there is still further to go as the challenge has been set to reduce this figure to just 10m2, but it is certainly pleasing that so much has already been achieved.

There are additional factors to consider. Public sector headcount is at the lowest since records began and is almost 1 million lower than it was when the coalition government formed in 2010 (including public corporations). Clearly this makes it easier to reduce overall estate use and costs, but would perhaps make per person costs harder to keep down. Fewer staff would mean a higher average cost.

However, costs per person appear to have been controlled and kept in check despite the rise in the cost of office space. That per person office costs have increased by just 6 per cent since 2010 is remarkable and there was a 4 per cent fall in the past year so it could be that things are beginning to improve on that score as well.

Additionally, better estate use has led to £1.8 billion of capital receipts from asset sales and it is good to return buildings and land to the private sector wherever possible.

All things considered, the savings made by efficient estate use are a good news story for the taxpayer. There is clearly still further to go but such progress is encouraging.  


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