1. Tennis courts
Yep, built into the Cabinet Office are the remains of Henry VIII’s tennis courts. It’s said that Henry would rent his tennis courts out when he wasn’t using them – so he knew how to maximise the value of government property – and for the Cabinet Office’s Efficiency and Reform Group, a man after our own hearts.
We’ve exited 2 million square metres of property and vacated 1,650 buildings since the start of 2010 - raising over £1.4 billion in capital receipts and saving over £600 million per year in running costs.
2. Illegal drag racing
Vin Diesel hasn’t made it into government yet but we did let him into HM Treasury to film the Fast and Furious 6 (yes, there have been that many). We can earn as much as £5,000 a day hiring out government venues. It’s one of the creative ways we’re helping to bring down the deficit.
3. The best cocktails in London
Maybe not yet, but in a couple of years you’ll be able to sip cocktails in the former home of the First Sea Lord (best job title ever?). That’s because rather than blowing a fortune at taxpayers’ expense to modernise these tired and tatty offices, the government has leased Admiralty Arch to a top international developer who will restore it to its former glory, raising £60 million in the process.
4. Property management James Bond-style
Civil servants in the Government Property Unit can hardly be said to live a Bond lifestyle. Recently they sealed a deal for the Department for Education move into the Old Admiralty Building so the taxpayer wouldn’t have to pay the expensive lease on current premises. It turns out the Old Admiralty Building is where James Bond author, Ian Fleming, worked on naval intelligence in World War II. One plan was to hide agents in the Rock of Gibraltar if the colony fell to the enemy. It was codenamed…Goldeneye.
5. The Ministry of Magic
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix showed the Ministry of Magic to be slap bang in the middle of Whitehall, and we’ve used our own bit of magic to save you money. We’ve made 7 separate organisations –– ranging from the Arts Council England to the Immigration Service Commissioner – leave their individual properties and join a new HQ in Bloomsbury. And abracadabra …£60 million saved over ten years.
6. It’s the Civil Service Jim, but not as we know it…
Churchill once said: “We shape our buildings; thereafter our buildings shape us”. He was right and it’s something that has influenced our thinking. We situated the Government Digital Service halfway between Whitehall and Shoreditch, the so-called Digital Roundabout. Inside, every spare area of surface is covered with post-it notes and charts that staff use to share design ideas and track progress. We want this to be the norm for government workplaces – creative, energetic environments that empower staff to find new ways of delivering public services.
7. An “ENIGMA-tic” property deal?
In the 1930s, the Government Code and Cypher School was looking to move away from their London headquarters, as they knew a war was coming. The Head of the Secret Intelligence Service was not a patient man - frustrated by the speed at which the cogs of government turned, he bought Bletchley Park out of his own pocket. The government only cottoned onto this when they tried to sell Bletchley Park in the 1990s and discovered they didn’t actually own it! We’re no longer buying country estates, but this small example shows how weak government has been at managing its property in the past, and how we’re radically improving how we manage it today.
Want to find out more about how we’re getting the best value for money for taxpayers from the government’s buildings? Read more in ‘Whitehall palaces: a thing of the past’.
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