Central government departments could save £330m a year by improving the management of their office portfolios, said a report by the National Audit Office today.

In its review of the efficiency of central government’s office property the spending watchdog said many departments are a ‘long way’ from achieving full value for money and are not yet on top of sustainability issues.

Taxpayers' money

Government’s civil property estate costs the taxpayer around £6bn a year with almost £1bn of this spent by central government departments on office property alone. The auditor said the governments department should improve cost performance of individual buildings by bringing them in line with private sector benchmark buildings.

The report found wide variations in the amount departments paid for office space ranging from £11/sq ft paid by the Department for Education and Skills to £59/sq ft paid by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) in 2005-6 – the latest year for which data is available.

London costly

Departmental buildings in London had the highest accommodation cost paying £47/sq ft while the North East the lowest at £12.35/ sq ft.

The report also found that departments vary in the amount of building space allocated for each person and the Office of Government Commerce (OGC) was currently consulting departments on the introduction of a space ‘standard’ of 12 sq m a person.

Costs of accommodation for each person allso varied greatly with the highest reported by the Treasury with £12,041 a person while the Department for Education and Skills was operating at £2,592 a person.

Sustainability challenge
The report also found that departments were not able to supply information on: the amount of energy consumed in 2005-06 for 265 out of 877 buildings reviewed; the proportion of energy from renewable sources for 300 buildings; or the presence of a recycling scheme for 544 buildings.

It said the OGC was looking to improve efficiency from government’s civil property estate and achieve £1.5bn of annual efficiency savings by 2013.