Government could save £330m a year on office accommodation - more than a third of current expenditure - if it managed its property in line with good private sector practice, the National Audit Office said yesterday. Financial Times

The government owns about £30bn worth of property that costs £6bn a year to run. Central government departments’ office property alone cost almost £1bn a year in running costs, the audit office said.

However, median office costs ranged from £123 per square metre to £636 in 2005-06, the last year for which figures are available.

Space per person varied hugely, from 13.3 square metres for the then Department of Constitutional Affairs to a massive 21.9 square metres for Treasury staff. The Treasury, occupying a building newly refurbished under the private finance initiative, had the highest cost per head in 2005-06, at £12,041 per person.

The government had launched a programme to manage the civil estate more efficiently, the NAO said, but more could be done to move staff out of London and the south-east to cheaper locations. The average cost of a square metre of accommodation in London was £507, while government offices in the north-east paid only £133.

In addition, it appeared far more could be done to use energy efficiently, the NAO said: 'Departments should have better data on the efficiency of individual buildings and their building portfolio.'