Electronic devices have become an essential part of home and work life in the 21st century, with government departments commonly supplying them in workspaces and to civil servants.
But despite their growing importance, large amounts of these devices continue to go unused. With government net borrowing of £46.1 billion in 2019 - and a six-fold increase expected over the course of this year - reducing taxpayers’ money spent on unused equipment would be a sensible way to cut waste.
This research shows the number of devices each government department currently has and the portion that have remained unused for more than a 90-day period. All government departments must ensure there is better utilisation of existing devices, especially where this can reduce Whitehall office costs by supporting greater moves towards remote working.
- 15 government departments have 23,890 unused devices, out of a total 301,073 electronic devices. This includes mobile phones, tablets, and laptops that were not used over a 90-day period. This equates to 8 per cent of government devices remaining unused.
- The average number of unused devices per department was 1,593. This equates to one in 12 government departments’ devices remaining unused.
- The department with the largest number of unused devices was the Home Office, with a total of 5,521 unused mobile phones, tablets, and laptops.
- The department with the largest percentage of total unused devices was the Department for Health and Social Care, with 16 per cent of all mobile phones, tablets, and laptops being unused.
- The department with the largest number of unused mobile phones was the Home Office, with a total of 3,111. This equates to 16 per cent of those held being unused.
- The department with the largest number of unused tablets was the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, with a total of 323. This equates to 35 per cent of those held being unused.
- Five government departments had over 25 per cent of the tablets they held going unused, including the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy with 47 per cent.
- The department with the largest number of unused laptops was the Home Office, with a total of 2,339. This equates to 9 per cent of those held being unused.
- The Wales Office was the only government department that did not have any unused devices.
- 10 departments each held over 500 unused devices.
 ONS, UK government debt and deficit: December 2019, 17 April 2020, www.ons.gov.uk/economy/governmentpublicsectorandtaxes/publicspending/bulletins/ukgovernmentdebtanddeficitforeurostatmaast/december2019, (accessed 28th May 2020)