UK Government spending reduction programme to sell off the War Office
War Office on the market as public assets sale continues
The historic War Office building is to be sold on a long lease as part of the Government’s plans to raise billions of pounds from selling off public assets and reducing spending overlaps and waste.
James Quinn By James Quinn10:00PM BST 01 Jun 2013Comments3 Comments
Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister, told The Sunday Telegraph that the building, on Whitehall in central London, will be placed on the block as part of his programme to reduce Government spending.
As part of those plans, he is tomorrow set to confirm that his efficiency drive across government operations in the 2012-13 fiscal year has surpassed the £8bn target for savings.
Mr Maude, who was tasked by the Prime Minister with reducing waste across central government departments, will also set new targets for the current and subsequent fiscal years.
On the property disposals, Mr Maude pointed to the £60m sale of Admiralty Arch on a 125-year lease as a model for future disposals.
“We’re gradually getting out of extensive leaseholds in central London, we don’t even need all of the freeholds,” he said.
“We’re looking at one or two others,” he continued, when asked specifically about future freehold sales.
“The [former grace and favour] apartments in Admiralty House are not used at all and we are looking at alternative uses for them. Selling them off fully is not achievable, given their location.
“There is an ongoing discussion about the old War Office building,” admitted Mr Maude, who said placing it up for sale on a long lease was one option under consideration.
The War Office, which the Ministry of Defence is in the process of vacating, sits on the corner of Whitehall and Horse Guards Avenue. It was home to the War Office between 1906 and 1964, until its abolition. It would be an ideal location for a hotel — which is also to be Admiralty Arch’s fate — and has more than a thousand rooms linked by 2.5 miles of corridors.
Mr Maude believes “there’s a growing understanding around Whitehall” about his cost-efficiency programme, although it was “slightly resisted at the outset on the basis that it was an intrusion”.
The programme, which is intended to bring business-style thinking to the civil service, makes savings through centralised buying, reducing waste and identifying areas of government that can either be commercialised or placed into a joint venture to generate future revenues.
One example is the GOV.UK web portal, which is a consolidated website for all Government departments, and brought together 132,000 different web addresses. The project reduced running costs by 75pc, equivalent to £50m on an annualised basis.
Other projects have included centralised buying of IT projects to cut down waste, and reducing the use of external consultants, with the wage bill down from £2.4bn a year in 2010 to £700m in 2012-13.
Mr Maude, and Stephen Kelly, the Government’s chief operating officer, are also keen to increase the number of small firms supplying central Government. This has risen from 6pc of central Government spending in 2010 to 10pc today, with an eventual target of 25pc.
“No organisation should ever think it’s done on efficiency. Tesco will estimate it should take out a few per cent of its costs every year through greater efficiency — we’re nowhere near that efficient yet,” added Mr Maude.