Civil servants are moving to Canary Wharf in a cost-cutting drive

Oliver Dowden
More than 6000 civil servants are relocating to Canary Wharf today, with public sector staff from eight departments moving east as part of a Whitehall cost-cutting drive (Source: Getty)

Today marks an impressive milestone with the opening of our new Canary Wharf Hub. It’s part of our long-term Civil Service transformation to reduce government buildings from 800 to 200 by 2030. We’ve seen 6,000 civil servants leave Whitehall to come and work in London’s financial centre including those from HMRC, OfGem and the Ministry of Justice.

Moving departments into the new Canary Wharf hub will result in £24 million of savings a year, where the average cost per sq/m in the Canary Wharf building is £700, compared to £950 for Whitehall buildings. We’re committed to working smartly and opening up the workplace to a more diverse civil service reflective of the people it serves and the places they live. In fact, part of the Government Estate Strategy, published earlier this year, aims to drive growth and opportunity by moving Government jobs to areas across the UK and housing civil servants in modern, flexible workplaces.

We want to become the most inclusive employer by 2020, so it’s only right that the way we work and manage our buildings estate is changing. Since 2014, we have responded to the changing needs of our citizens and workforce. We have disposed of over 1,000 surplus properties, raising £2 billion in sales, and saved an additional £300 million per year in running costs through greater efficiencies - freeing up funds to be redirected elsewhere.

During this time we have also reduced vacant space across the estate by 73 per cent through smarter working. Our vacancy rate now stands at just 1.5 per cent - one fifth of the private sector average. Because of this, we have also been able to meet our 2020 emissions targets early. Now, only 13 percent of our waste goes into landfill, and we have reduced our carbon emissions and paper consumption by 33 and 50 per cent respectively.

We do not want our civil servants to be locked away in Whitehall, removed from the public we work for and detached from communities we serve. We also want to make it easier for citizens to access public services.Through the One Public Estate programme, delivered in partnership with the Local Government Association and in collaboration with councils, health bodies and emergency services, we are already bringing frontline services together under one roof. This programme will be expanded, releasing land for 25,000 homes and creating 44,000 jobs by 2020.

We have a responsibility not only to deliver value for money but to continue to push boundaries, working smartly to deliver a stronger, fairer society for citizens. Our transformation involves using the best people and newest methods to get the most out of our property. For our workforce it involves providing flexibility so we benefit from new technology that enables us to work anywhere - not just behind a desk. It means those with disabilities, parents with children, or those with caring responsibility, are all welcomed to be part of our civil service. By the end of this Parliament we will have established a network of around 20 multi-agency Government hubs across the UK that utilise efficient smarter working practices and are accessible to the very communities that need them. As our civil servants move from Whitehall to the Canary Wharf I am confident this relocation will benefit everyone, placing us right next to the very people we serve.

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