Like any other organisation, if a local council can manage to reduce the number of office staff it employs, then it is not only saving their salaries. It can also manage with a smaller “footprint”. It can sell some of its buildings – or cease renting them or not renew the lease on them.
It is heartening that we are being set a good example. Ministers and staff at the Department for Communities and Local Government have moved in with the Home Office – and will save a staggering £220 million in office costs.
Communities and Local Government Secretary, Eric Pickles, ordered his department’s relocation from its Eland House office in Victoria, returning to Marsham Street to share the Home Office’s headquarters in Westminster. The National Audit Office has noted that the DCLG move will save taxpayers an estimated £220 million over the remaining lifetime of the Private Finance Initiative contract.
Mr Pickles said:
“There is still immense inefficiency across the public sector. By sharing services and streamlining our own back office, we are practising what we preach to town halls by illustrating the scope to save even more taxpayers’ money. And in waving goodbye to the old building which will be turned into new shops and offices, we are also doing our bit to support the exciting regeneration of London’s Victoria.”
This is not the first change for the department, of course. Marsham Street was once the home of the DCLG’s predecessor, the Department of the Environment. The department was moved in 1997 to become John Prescott’s ‘DETR’. It was later the home of Stephen Byers’s ‘DTLR’, before becoming the ‘ODPM’ and then finally ‘DCLG’.
Completed in 1971, the old Marsham Street site had three tower blocks nicknamed ‘the three ugly sisters’. They were described
in Sir Nikolaus Pevsner’s architectural guides as “the very image of faceless bureaucracy”. In 1992, Environment Secretary, Michael
Heseltine, resolved to bulldoze the unsuitable and dysfunctional concrete towers. I don’t always agree with Lord Heseltine but surely that was the right instinct. What an indictment of the planning system that those setting the rules should have been doing so from such “an outstanding example of brutalism”.
The Department intends to continue its practice of championing the flying of Britain’s varied local and national flags to show pride in the United Kingdom’s heritage and tradition from its new home